Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering have discovered why the lightweight strength of the Toco Toucan's beak are models of lightweight strength. Materials scientist Marc Meyers led the study.
Meyers: The reason why we are studying the toucan beak is that it is such an intricate and complex system and it's extremely lightweight and considering that the materials in which it is made, it's extraordinarily strong. We want to learn these lessons from nature and this is called biomimicking to develop synthetic systems that have a much higher strength than the existing systems.
Narrator: The researchers used computer modeling and sophisticated magnification techniques and revealed a rigid foam made up of bony fibers and drum-like membranes sandwiched between an outer layer of keratin, that protein that makes up fingernails, hair and horn. This was the first ever detailed engineering analysis of toucan beaks and Meyers says this avian bio-composite could someday inspire the design of ultra-light aircraft and vehicle components. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.