Page 72 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
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Birds use their beaks in complex tasks, such as probing in the ground for worms, and typically have a collection of sensory receptors in the
bill tip. These specialised organs called Herbst corpuscles are stacked in bony pits or underneath the bill skin, and have been described for example in the kiwi and in probing shorebirds.
cassowary (New Guinea), and tinnamous (Mexico, Central and South America) comprising the rest of the infraclass.
Through her research Crole has demonstrated that the ostrich and emu also possess a bill tip organ, which is unusual as these birds do not perform complicated tasks with their beaks. Researchers have also determined that the part of the brain responsible for processing information from the bill tip organ is not enlarged. In collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College, University of London (UK), Crole and fellow researchers have applied elemental analysis to histological specialisations in the ostrich bill skin. This has revealed a possible function of the bill tip organ in the ostrich and emu. The bills are light yet tough, and elemental analysis demonstrates that the bill tip organ has the ability to interpret bite and pecking force. This mechanism in the non- probing ratites likely prevents them from applying a force that would break their beaks.
   Professor Martina Crole received the FEI prize for the best paper published in an internationally recognised Journal of Life Sciences, at the 53rd Annual Conference of the Microscopy Society of Southern Africa.
  70 | UP Research Review 2016
Professor Martina Crole’s research in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology in the Faculty of Veterinary Science, exposes and explains certain peculiarities and specialisations in the oropharynx and beak of farmed ratite species: the African ostrich, the Australian emu and the South American rhea. These birds all belong to an extraordinary infraclass, the Palaeognathae, with only the kiwi (New Zealand),

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