Australia’s bin chicken is helping science

Watching the white ibis run is a step closer to walking with dinosaurs

People have mixed feeling about the Australian white ibis – it’s a striking bird to look at, but its presence in towns and cities has earned it the nickname ‘bin chicken’. Whether it’s loved or loathed, the ibis is plying an important part into dinosaur research. Birds are descended from the extinct reptiles so they’re an ideal window into the past, giving some idea of how the creatures might have moved.

Birds from 12 species ranging from the tiny to the tall, including the long-legged ibis, were encouraged to run around a track while being filmed. Analysis of the footage will allow the scientists to see how movement changes as size and weight increase, so that they can scale all the way up to dinosaurs like tyrannosaurus rex.

This research isn’t just for fun or to satisfy curiosity – understanding how dinosaurs moved will give a better idea of how they searched for food, how far they could travel, whether they migrated and perhaps even whether they were warm- or cold-blooded.


Watch the video below to see the ibis in action:

Image: Ed Dunens/flickr