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jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Wood Storks 4

Length of Segment: 00:01:11

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The study of animal behavior often provides us with a greater understanding of family ties. As a result of some unusual shared behaviors, we now know that Florida's wood storks are related to our black and turkey vultures. As one biologist who was trying to determine our vulture's closest kin put it: “Our vultures are nothing more than sawed-off storks.” The behavior that helped establish this link has to do with the way in which both wood storks and our vultures keep cool in the Florida sunshine. When we sweat, the evaporation of water from the surface of the skin cools us down. Although birds don't have sweat glands as we do, wood storks and vultures have developed a similar type of cooling mechanism: they excrete on their legs, and the evaporation of water from that excrement cools them off. As a result of this behavior, the legs of wood storks and our vultures are characteristically white from the accumulated excrement. It may not sound pleasant to us, but on the hottest days, it works for them. Pretty cool behavior for these interesting birds of the Florida sunshine.

'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.

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