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337d5d9a

Pelicans shove their spines through their mouths to cool down.

Pelicans cannot push out their internal parts, but the pouch under the beak stretches over the neck, which appears as if the spine is coming out.

A recent Instagram post reads, "Today I learned that when pelicans are hot, they can take their spine out of their mouths to cool down." A diagram within the image tries to explain the process. Other photos in the post appear to show a pelican bird trying to push its spine out from its body. However, this is false.

According to Sharon Stiteler, a Mississippi park ranger and bird expert, one of the birds in the Instagram post is not even a pelican. It is a shoebill, and it is not cooling itself down due to heat. Stiteler explained this in an Agence France-Presse article, which she linked in a tweet. The other images of pelicans actually show the act of yawning, wherein the pouch under their beak stretches over their neck as the head goes back. The yawn is like a stretch exercise for the beak, and given how large the beak is, it seems like the bird is pushing its spine outside of its body.

Kaeli Swift, a researcher and an expert in ornithology and wildlife ecology, has explained the pelican's visually absurd behavior on her YouTube channel. In the video, she uses a DIY model in the shape of a pelican's head and neck to demonstrate what happens when a pelican yawns. She describes how the tissue on the bottom mandible becomes stretched over the neck, but the spine does not protrude from the mouth.

Darren Naish, a zoologist, has tweeted an illustration of a pelican doing the same action. He clarifies that it isn't about overheating, but stretching and rearranging tissues of their lower jaw and throat.

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