A team of Australian scientists has completed research that could help solve a 200-year-old mystery around an emblematic Australian bird.
Researchers from La Trobe University have published new evidence Scientific reports the southern casuar and its distinctive helmet – known as a helmet.
Daniel Istik of La Trobe's Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, and her team, have shown that the skull structure acts as a radiator or "thermal window" to help large non-flying birds cool off in hot weather .
"Our results are quite convincing and it is very likely that this will be used for the case," Ms Istik said.
"It is really exciting to think we have solved a mystery that has so long confused scientists."
Using a portable thermal imaging device, Mrs. Istik received testimonies from 20 captives, from Victoria to North Queensland and under different climatic conditions.
Photographs show that birds emit minimal heat from their case when the time is only five degrees and the highest levels when mercury reaches 36 degrees.
Mrs. Istik explained that as a big body, a dark feather creature that is native to northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea, the Kazuars face a heat challenge at high temperatures.
"Just as people get drunk and the dogs choke in hot weather or after a workout, the cashiers unload the heat from their helmet to survive." The hotter the ambient temperature, the more heat they release.
"The case has caused considerable curiosity and speculation for almost two centuries, and animal experts have suggested different theories, including that it is a protective weapon used to fight other animals or a means of attracting the opposite sex, but all are inconclusive."
The term "thermal window" can provide a rare insight into the physiology of dinosaurs.
"Many dinosaurs also had cases, so it's also possible to help them cool this way."
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Daniel L. Istik and others. Scientific reports (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-019-38780-8