London, August 18 (ANI): An exhaustive study by scientists has concluded that flamingoes stand on one leg to regulate their body temperature.
According to a report by BBC News, the study was carried out by Matthew Anderson and Sarah Williams, who are comparative psychologists based at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, US.
The test subject of their study was the Caribbean flamingo.
"I was very surprised to discover how little systematic, hypothesis-driven empirical research had been conducted on flamingoes," said Anderson.
Anderson and Williams's research began by studying laterality in flamingoes: whether they show any preference over which side of their bodies they use for various tasks, just as a human may be right or left-handed.
They found that flamingoes prefer to rest with their heads on one side more than the other, and that which side a flamingo rests its head determines how aggressive it is toward others in the flock.
The researchers investigated whether flamingoes also prefer to stand on one leg more than the other, and from there, why they stand on one leg at all, empirically testing the question for the first time.
To investigate, Anderson and Williams spent several months observing the habits of captive Caribbean flamingoes at Philadelphia Zoo, Pennsylvania, each of which carries a leg band that allows individuals to be identified.
At first, they examined whether standing on one leg helps reduce fatigue in the birds' legs, or helps flamingos escape from predators more quickly, by shortening the time to take flight.
Both are commonly proposed as reasons for unipedal resting in flamingoes.
The scientists ruled out each as a benefit of standing on one leg, as their research showed it took flamingoes longer, and therefore more energy, to move forward after resting on one leg than after resting on two.
The birds also showed no preference for which leg they stood on.
Nor did standing on one leg help the birds balance when conditions were windy, another proposed idea.
However, the researchers did find that flamingoes prefer to stand on one leg far more often when they are standing in water than when standing on land.
"As water invariably draws away more body heat, this result supports the thermoregulation hypothesis," said Anderson.
In short, the birds stand on one leg to conserve body heat.
"The results provide definitive evidence that thermoregulation is a principal function of unipedal resting in flamingoes," said Anderson. (ANI)