Wattle (anatomy)

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A rooster's wattles hang from the throat Rooster portrait2.jpg
A rooster's wattles hang from the throat

A wattle is a fleshy caruncle hanging from various parts of the head or neck in several groups of birds and mammals. A caruncle is defined as 'A small, fleshy excrescence that is a normal part of an animal's anatomy'. Within this definition, caruncles in birds include those found on the face, wattles, dewlaps, snoods and earlobes. Wattles are generally paired structures but may occur as a single structure when it is sometimes known as a dewlap . Wattles are frequently organs of sexual dimorphism. In some birds, caruncles are erectile tissue and may or may not have a feather covering. [1] [2]

Caruncle (bird anatomy) Wikimedia disambiguation page

A caruncle is defined as 'a small, fleshy excrescence that is a normal part of an animal's anatomy'. Within this definition, caruncles in birds include wattles, combs, snoods, and earlobes. The term caruncle is derived from Latin caruncula, the diminutive of carō, "flesh".

Snood (anatomy)

In anatomical terms, the snood is an erectile, fleshy protuberance on the forehead of turkeys. Most of the time when the turkey is in a relaxed state, the snood is pale and 2-3 cm long. However, when the male begins strutting, the snood engorges with blood, becomes redder and elongates several centimetres, hanging well below the beak.

Dewlap Loose skin hanging under the neck on some animals

A dewlap is a longitudinal flap of skin that hangs beneath the lower jaw or neck of many vertebrates. While the term is usually used in this specific context, it can also be used to include other structures occurring in the same body area with a similar aspect, such as those caused by a double chin or the submandibular vocal sac of a frog. In a more general manner, the term refers to any pendulous mass of skin, such as a fold of loose skin on an elderly person's neck, or the wattle of a bird. Dewlaps can be considered as a caruncle, defined as 'a small, fleshy excrescence that is a normal part of an animal's anatomy'.


Wattles are often such a striking morphological characteristic of animals that it features in their common name. For example, the southern and northern cassowary are known as the double-wattled and single-wattled cassowary respectively and there is a breed of domestic pig known as the red wattle.

Morphology (biology) In biology, the form and structure of organisms

Morphology is a branch of biology dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features.



In birds, wattles are often an ornament for courting potential mates. Large wattles are correlated with high testosterone levels, good nutrition, and the ability to evade predators, which in turn indicates a potentially successful mate. It has also been proposed that ornamental organs such as wattles are associated with genes coding for disease resistance. [3] In umbrellabirds the wattle serves to amplify the birds' call. [4]

Sexual selection A mode of natural selection wherein members of one biological sex choose mates of the other sex, and compete with members of the same sex

Sexual selection is a mode of natural selection where members of one biological sex choose mates of the other sex to mate with, and compete with members of the same sex for access to members of the opposite sex. These two forms of selection mean that some individuals have better reproductive success than others within a population, either from being more attractive or preferring more attractive partners to produce offspring. For instance, in the breeding season, sexual selection in frogs occurs with the males first gathering at the water's edge and making their mating calls: croaking. The females then arrive and choose the males with the deepest croaks and best territories. In general, males benefit from frequent mating and monopolizing access to a group of fertile females. Females can have a limited number of offspring and maximize the return on the energy they invest in reproduction.

Gene Basic physical and functional unit of heredity

In biology, a gene is a sequence of nucleotides in DNA or RNA that codes for a molecule that has a function. During gene expression, the DNA is first copied into RNA. The RNA can be directly functional or be the intermediate template for a protein that performs a function. The transmission of genes to an organism's offspring is the basis of the inheritance of phenotypic trait. These genes make up different DNA sequences called genotypes. Genotypes along with environmental and developmental factors determine what the phenotypes will be. Most biological traits are under the influence of polygenes as well as gene–environment interactions. Some genetic traits are instantly visible, such as eye color or number of limbs, and some are not, such as blood type, risk for specific diseases, or the thousands of basic biochemical processes that constitute life.

Umbrellabird genus of birds

Umbrellabirds are birds in the genus Cephalopterus. They are found in rainforests of Central and South America. With a total length of 35–50 cm (14–19.5 in), they are among the largest members of the cotinga family, and the male Amazonian umbrellabird is the largest passerine in South America.


Southern Hill Myna in India showing yellow wattles on the head SHMyna DSC9598.jpg
Southern Hill Myna in India showing yellow wattles on the head

Birds with wattles include:

Northern cassowary species of bird

The northern cassowary also known as the one-wattled cassowary, single-wattled cassowary, or golden-necked cassowary, is a large, stocky flightless bird of northern New Guinea. It is one of the three living species of cassowary, alongside the dwarf cassowary and the southern cassowary. It is a member of the superorder Paleognathae.

Southern cassowary species of large flightless black bird

The southern cassowary, also known as double-wattled cassowary, Australian cassowary or two-wattled cassowary, is a large flightless black bird. It is one of the three living species of cassowary, alongside the dwarf cassowary and the northern cassowary. It is a ratite and therefore related to the emu, ostriches, rheas and kiwis.

Dwarf cassowary species of bird

The dwarf cassowary, also known as Bennett's cassowary, little cassowary, mountain cassowary or mooruk, is the smallest of the three species of cassowaries.


Mammals with wattles include:

See also

Related Research Articles

Golden pheasant species of bird

The golden pheasant or Chinese pheasant is a gamebird of the order Galliformes and the family Phasianidae (pheasants). The genus name is from Ancient Greek khrusolophos, "with golden crest", and pictus is Latin for "painted" from pingere, "to paint".

Red-wattled lapwing species of bird

The red-wattled lapwing is an Asian lapwing or large plover, a wader in the family Charadriidae. Like other lapwings they are ground birds that are incapable of perching. Their characteristic loud alarm calls are indicators of human or animal movements and the sounds have been variously rendered as did he do it or pity to do it leading to the colloquial name of did-he-do-it bird. Usually seen in pairs or small groups and usually not far from water they sometimes form large aggregations in the non-breeding season (winter). They nest in a ground scrape laying three to four camouflaged eggs. Adults near the nest fly around, diving at potential predators while calling noisily. The cryptically patterned chicks hatch and immediately follow their parents to feed, hiding by lying low on the ground or in the grass when threatened.

Bronze-winged jacana species of bird

The bronze-winged jacana is a wader in the family Jacanidae. Like other jacanas it forages on lilies and other floating aquatic vegetation, the long feet spreading out its weight and preventing sinking. It is found across South and Southeast Asia and is the sole species in the genus Metopidius. The sexes are alike but females are slightly larger and polyandrous, maintaining harems of males during the breeding season, in the monsoon rains. Males maintain territories, with one male in the harem chosen to incubate the eggs and take care of the young. When threatened, young chicks may be held and carried under his wings to safety by the male.

Yellow-wattled lapwing species of bird

The yellow-wattled lapwing is a lapwing that is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent. It is found mainly on the dry plains of peninsular India and has a sharp call and is capable of fast flight. Although they do not migrate, they are known to make seasonal movements in response to rains. They are dull grey brown with a black cap, yellow legs and a triangular wattle at the base of the beak. Like other lapwings and plovers, they are ground birds and their nest is a mere collection of tiny pebbles within which their well camouflaged eggs are laid. The chicks are nidifugous, leaving the nest shortly after hatching and following their parents to forage for food.

<i>Anthochaera</i> genus of birds

Anthochaera is a genus of birds in the honeyeater family. The species are native to Australia and include the little wattlebird, the red wattlebird, the western wattlebird, and the yellow wattlebird. Recent evidence suggests the regent honeyeater belongs in this genus.

Comb (anatomy) crest on the top of the head of some gallinaceous birds

A comb is a fleshy growth or crest on the top of the head of gallinaceous birds, such as turkeys, pheasants, and domestic chickens. Its alternative name cockscomb reflects that combs are generally larger on males than on females. There can be several fleshy protuberances on the heads and throats of gallinaceous birds, i.e. the comb, wattle, and earlobe, which collectively are called caruncles, however, in turkeys caruncle refers specifically to the fleshy nodules on the head and throat.

Sedgwick County Zoo non-profit organisation in the USA

The Sedgwick County Zoo is an AZA-accredited wildlife park and major attraction in Wichita, Kansas. Founded in 1971 with the help of the Sedgwick County Zoological Society, the zoo has quickly become recognized both nationally and internationally for its support of conservation programs and successful breeding of rare and endangered species. Having over 3,000 animals of nearly 400 different species, the zoo has slowly increased its visitors and now ranks as the number one outdoor tourist attraction in the state.

Shoalhaven Zoo

Shoalhaven Zoo, formerly the Nowra Animal Park, is an animal park on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

Comb-crested jacana species of bird

The comb-crested jacana, also known as the lotusbird or lilytrotter, is the only species of jacana in the genus Irediparra. Like other jacana species, it is adapted to the floating vegetation of tropical freshwater wetlands.

Shanghai Zoo zoo in Shanghai, China

Shanghai Zoological Park, or commonly Shanghai Zoo in short, is the main zoological garden in Shanghai. It is located near the township of Hongqiao and is administratively in Changning District. Shanghai Zoo was formerly known as "Xijiao Park", which is still a common name used locally for the zoo.

Frontal shield

A frontal shield, also known as a facial shield or frontal plate, is a feature of the anatomy of several bird species. Located just above the upper mandible, and protruding along the forehead, it is composed of two main parts: a hard, proteinaceous callus and a soft, fleshy corium. It is thought to play roles in protection, mate identification, sexual selection, and territorial defense.


  1. John James Audubon, Dean Amadon, John L Bull. 1967 The Birds of America
  2. Richard Bowdler Sharpe. 1888. Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum, British Natural History Museum, Department of Zoology
  3. Baratti, Mariella; Ammannati, Martina; Magnelli, Claudia; Massolo, Alessandro; Dessì-Fulgheri, Francesco (2010). "Are large wattles related to particular MHC genotypes in the male pheasant?". Genetica. 138: 657–665. doi:10.1007/s10709-010-9440-5.
  4. The Hutchinson encyclopedia - Page 1087 https://books.google.co.uk/books?isbn=1859862888 (Oxford) Helicon Publishing Ltd, Jane Anson, Michael Broers - 2000 - The Amazonian species Cephalopterus ornatus, the ornate umbrella bird, has an inflatable wattle at the neck to amplify its humming call, and in display elevates a long crest (12 cm/4 in) lying above the bill so that it rises umbrella-like above ...
  5. Hogan, C. Michael "Wild Turkey: Meleagris gallopavo", GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg 2008
  6. John White. 1790. Voyage to New South Wales