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December 20, 2012 5:20 AM   Subscribe

'If you’re like me, you’ll have asked yourself many times, “Why do toucans have such ridiculously big bills?”'

A toucan walks into a 7-11 and asks for a tube of Chapstick.
The clerk asks, “Will that be cash or charge?”
The toucan replies, “Just put it on my bill!”

“Our computer modeling shows that the beak is optimized to an amazing degree for high strength and very little weight,” said Meyers. “It's almost as if the toucan has a deep knowledge of mechanical engineering. Bird beaks are typically either short and thick or long and thin."

A discussion of what evolutionary factors might be at play.

Bonus! Ugly/cute toucan chicks

Credit to comments on both articles for the lame intro joke and the link to baby toucans... this is not a beaking story... can't believe this is the first toucan focused post on metafilter
posted by panaceanot (32 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
“Why do toucans have such ridiculously big bills?”

Obviously they overdo it with their credit cards, run the heat or the air conditioning WAY too much, etc.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:25 AM on December 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Ahh, christ. Didn't read the joke in the OP til just now. D'oh!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:26 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I um, misread the word bills and still clicked more inside. Which I'm guessing means I've been on the Internet too long.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:29 AM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ahh, christ. Didn't read the joke in the OP til just now. D'oh!

And I came in to make a joke about Toucan Sam and read the title. OP covered all the bases for jerks like us. I guess I should just read the article.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:30 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


My beak is big,
uh-uh I'm not ashamed
Big like a pickle,
I'm still gettin' paid
posted by Thorzdad at 5:47 AM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Didn't intend to cover the bases of jerks like us, just wanted to craft an interesting lede to my findings as an investigative journalist into my hard-hitting exposè on toucans.

Multiple Google search term strings were employed.

In all seriousness though... cool beaks.
posted by panaceanot at 5:52 AM on December 20, 2012


Birds don't sweat. They cool off by panting. Long ago my girlfriend owned two small toucans (a saffron and an emerald toucanet) and it was very clear from their behavior that, as the evolution article suggests, they use their bills for thermoregulation.
posted by localroger at 5:55 AM on December 20, 2012


My beak is big,
uh-uh I'm not ashamed
Big like a pickle,
I'm still gettin' paid


No-no-no-no-no beak job!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:57 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe the success of these birds is due to their tou"can-do" attitude. You kids these days could learn something from them!
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:25 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obviously they overdo it with their credit cards, run the heat or the air conditioning WAY too much, etc.

  Ahh, christ. Didn't read the joke in the OP til just now. D'oh!

    In all seriousness though... cool beaks.

      as the evolution article suggests, they use their bills for thermoregulation


Well, you were at least half right werntcha, Flapjax?

And here I thought it was because, like Imelda Marcos, they'd spent all their money on pair after pair of sh-- you know; things. Watchamacallits.

Thanks and a tip of the Old Schnozzolla, Panaceanot.

Inka dinka doo.

I wonder why Metafilter thinks a FPP about Cheers is related.
posted by Herodios at 6:42 AM on December 20, 2012


Birds are weird.
posted by cthuljew at 6:44 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Toucan Song
posted by pracowity at 6:45 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


“Why do toucans have such ridiculously big bills?”'

So they can eat lots of Froot Loops?
posted by Mezentian at 6:48 AM on December 20, 2012


Very recent research shows it is a big, colorful radiator fin! Here's more info about our favorite obnoxious jungle buddy, courtesy of the steel drum band with the same name.
posted by Aquaman at 6:49 AM on December 20, 2012


“It's almost as if the toucan has a deep knowledge of mechanical engineering."

It's almost as if this mechanical engineering professor has a very shallow knowledge of natural selection.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:58 AM on December 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Didn't read the links w-g p ;]

"This is why I jokingly tell my students that toucans have a deep knowledge of mechanics."
posted by panaceanot at 7:22 AM on December 20, 2012


1) Ugh - that joke. It was the only joke my youth pastor knew. I think he knew he was being a dweeb and thus cranked it up by telilng the same. joke. over. and. over.

2) Everybody knows why Toucans have big beaks - all the better to eat Froot Loops with.

3) Toucan babies, you scary!
posted by symbioid at 7:24 AM on December 20, 2012


"Obviously they overdo it with their credit cards, run the heat or the air conditioning WAY too much, etc."

That can't be it. After all, toucan live as cheaply as one.

A friend gave me a toy plastic banana. I cut it open, thinking it was hollow and I could make a flute out of it, but it turned out to have the same structure as that beak diagram.
posted by moonmilk at 7:35 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


those baby toucans look like these little petrie dudes from Land Before Time
posted by skrozidile at 7:46 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


toucan bills are toubig
posted by mullacc at 7:53 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Toucan Play That Game.
posted by DaddyNewt at 7:56 AM on December 20, 2012


I learned something about a bird with a similarly-colorful beak on QI recently -- apparently, after mating season, the puffin's bright beak falls off. The bright colors are on an outer sheath of keratin that comes off as it gets close to winter; its plumage also changes, so in winter most puffins look more like this.

(They also said on QI that a puffin chick is called a "puffling," which you don't even have to see to just know it's cute as all hell.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on December 20, 2012


Why do toucans have such ridiculously big bills?

Branding. Next question.
posted by JHarris at 8:29 AM on December 20, 2012


The obvious answer is so they can get right to the bottom of a pint of Guinness or a box of Fruit Loops.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:40 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a boy growing up in Brazil 40 years ago, Marc A. Meyers marveled at the lightweight toughness of toucan beaks that he occasionally found on the forest floor.

oh man subway fingernail-clippings got nothin' on the damn jungle
posted by Greg Nog at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


“Why do toucans have such ridiculously big bills?”

The toucan was designed to be remarkable enough that Disney would put a trio in its park, which would then be referred to by the Jungle Cruise guides as The Sixpack.

Its purpose fulfilled, the species is now in decline.
posted by Malor at 9:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always assumed they had ridiculously big bills because of hyperinflation, kind of like the the Weimar Republic's 100 trillion Mark banknote.
posted by drlith at 9:42 AM on December 20, 2012


They are quite a sight to behold...but the babies...um, baby animals are just about universally cute, but the baby tocos in that last link - if viewed in a slightly skewed light, and imagined perhaps 1000x larger - could be the stuff of nightmares. Flying away with your Canadian baby, indeed.
posted by davidmsc at 10:36 AM on December 20, 2012


Toucan or toucan't - there is no try.
posted by kensch at 10:43 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why did the pelican get kicked out of the restaurant?

/gravity falls
posted by almostmanda at 12:50 PM on December 20, 2012


Meyers: It's almost as if the toucan has a deep knowledge of mechanical engineering.
Gack. No, it isn't. Waterfalls don't have deep knowledge of water dynamics; bees don't grasp packing algorithms; toucans don't understand mechanical engineering.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:45 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like a big beak and I cannot lie.
posted by medusa at 8:39 PM on December 20, 2012


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