Facial bristle feather histology and morphology in New Zealand birds: Implications for function
Article first published online: 10 NOV 2010
Copyright © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Journal of Morphology
Volume 272, Issue 1, pages 118–128, January 2011
How to Cite
Cunningham, S. J., Alley, M. R. and Castro, I. (2011), Facial bristle feather histology and morphology in New Zealand birds: Implications for function. J. Morphol., 272: 118–128. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10908
- Issue published online: 8 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 10 NOV 2010
- Manuscript Accepted: 28 AUG 2010
- Manuscript Revised: 29 JUN 2010
- Manuscript Received: 9 MAR 2010
- rictal bristle;
- Herbst corpuscle;
Knowledge of structure in biology may help inform hypotheses about function. Little is known about the histological structure or the function of avian facial bristle feathers. Here we provide information on morphology and histology, with inferences for function, of bristles in five predominantly insectivorous birds from New Zealand. We chose species with differing ecologies, including: brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli), morepork (Ninox novaezealandae), hihi (Notiomystis cincta), New Zealand robin (Petroica australis), and New Zealand fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa). Average bristle length corrected for body size was similar across species. Bristles occurred in distinct groups on different parts of the head and upper rictal bristles were generally longest. The lower rictal bristles of the fantail were the longest possessed by that species and were long compared to bristles of other species. Kiwi were the only species with forehead bristles, similar in length to the upper rictal bristles of other species, and the lower rictal bristles of fantails. Herbst corpuscles (vibration and pressure sensitive mechanoreceptors) were found in association with bristle follicles in all species. Nocturnal and hole-nesting birds had more heavily encapsulated corpuscles than diurnal open-nesting species. Our results suggest that avian facial bristles generally have a tactile function in both nocturnal and diurnal species, perhaps playing a role in prey handling, gathering information during flight, navigating in nest cavities and on the ground at night and possibly in prey-detection. These differing roles may help explain the observed differences in capsule thickness of the corpuscles. J. Morphol., 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.