Researchers at Binghamton University believe that they have discovered why animals yawn. It seems that the action is intended to cool the brain to preserve the best of the organ’s functionality.
From Discovery News:
He and colleagues Michael Miller and Anne Clark analyzed yawning in parakeets as representative vertebrates because the birds have relatively large brains, live wild in Australia, which is subject to frequent temperature swings, and, most importantly, do not engage in contagious yawning, as humans and some other animals do.
Contagious yawning is thought to be an evolved mechanism for keeping groups alert so they “remain vigilant against danger,” Gallup said.
For the study, the scientists exposed parakeets to three different conditions: increasing temperature, high temperature and a moderate control temperature. While the frequency of yawns did not increase during the latter two conditions, it more than doubled when the researchers increased the bird’s ambient temperature.
More from Discovery News…
Abstract in Animal Behaviour: Yawning and thermoregulation in budgerigars, Melopsittacus undulatus
Image credit: Domenico Photography