The kinematics of feeding and drinking in palaeognathous birds in relation to cranial morphology

Sander W.S. Gussekloo*, Ron G. Bout

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Cranial kinesis is an important feature in avian feeding behaviour and involves the transmission of quadrate movement to the upper bill by the Pterygoid-Palatinum Complex (PPC). The PPC in Palaeognathae is remarkably different from that found in Neognathae. In this study we analyse whether the special morphology of the PPC is an adaptation to the feeding behaviour of the Palaeognathae. Behavioural analyses of the rhea Rhea americana showed that the feeding behaviour of the rhea is typical 'Catch and Throw' behaviour, independent of the size of the food item. Drinking is achieved by a scooping movement followed by a low-amplitude tip-up phase. During feeding rhynchokinetic movements of the upper bill were observed. However, cranial kinesis was limited and may differ from rhynchokinesis in neognathes as a clear bending zone seemed absent. Since the movement patterns are considered very similar to the basic feeding behaviour in neognathous birds it is concluded that the specific morphology of the PPC is not the result of specific functional demands from palaeognathous feeding behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3395-3407
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Cranial morphology
  • Feeding behaviour
  • Palaeognathae
  • Rhea americana


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