Vulture

Vulture

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Vulture is the name given to two groups of convergently evolved
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

 scavenging
Scavenger
Scavenging is both a carnivorous and herbivorous feeding behavior in which individual scavengers search out dead animal and dead plant biomass on which to feed. The eating of carrion from the same species is referred to as cannibalism. Scavengers play an important role in the ecosystem by...

 bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s, the New World Vulture
New World vulture
The New World Vulture or Condor family Cathartidae contains seven species in fivegenera, all but one of which are monotypic. It includes five vultures and two condors found in warm and temperate areas of the Americas....

s including the well-known Californian and Andean Condors, and the Old World Vulture
Old World vulture
Old World vultures belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks.Old World vultures are not closely related to the superficially similar New World vultures and condors, and do not share that group's good sense of smell. The similarities between the two...

s including the birds which are seen scavenging on carcasses of dead animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s on African plains. New World Vulture
New World vulture
The New World Vulture or Condor family Cathartidae contains seven species in fivegenera, all but one of which are monotypic. It includes five vultures and two condors found in warm and temperate areas of the Americas....

s are found in North and South America, Old World Vulture
Old World vulture
Old World vultures belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks.Old World vultures are not closely related to the superficially similar New World vultures and condors, and do not share that group's good sense of smell. The similarities between the two...

s in Europe, Africa and Asia, meaning that between the two groups, Vultures are found on every continent except Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and Antarctica.

A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of normal feather
Feather
Feathers are one of the epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on birds and some non-avian theropod dinosaurs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates, and indeed a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty. They...

s. This helps to keep the head clean when feeding. Research has shown that the bare skin may play an important role in thermoregulation
Thermoregulation
Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different...

.

A group of vultures is called a wake, committee, venue, kettle, or volt. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee, volt, and venue refer to vultures resting in trees. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures who are feeding. The word Geier
Geier
Geier may refer to:* Geier , a surname of German origin *The Geier Indians, 17th century native American group-Fiction:*Der Geier , a short story by Franz Kafka...

(taken from the German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

) does not have a precise meaning in ornithology
Ornithology
Ornithology is a branch of zoology that concerns the study of birds. Several aspects of ornithology differ from related disciplines, due partly to the high visibility and the aesthetic appeal of birds...

, and it is occasionally used to refer to a vulture in English, as in some poetry.

Classification


Vultures are classified into two groups: Old World Vulture
Old World vulture
Old World vultures belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks.Old World vultures are not closely related to the superficially similar New World vultures and condors, and do not share that group's good sense of smell. The similarities between the two...

s and New World Vulture
New World vulture
The New World Vulture or Condor family Cathartidae contains seven species in fivegenera, all but one of which are monotypic. It includes five vultures and two condors found in warm and temperate areas of the Americas....

s. The similarities between the two different groups are due to convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

.

Old World Vultures



The Old World Vulture
Old World vulture
Old World vultures belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks.Old World vultures are not closely related to the superficially similar New World vultures and condors, and do not share that group's good sense of smell. The similarities between the two...

s found in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 belong to the family Accipitridae
Accipitridae
The Accipitridae, one of the two major families within the order Accipitriformes , are a family of small to large birds with strongly hooked bills and variable morphology based on diet. They feed on a range of prey items from insects to medium-sized mammals, with a number feeding on carrion and a...

, which also includes eagle
Eagle
Eagles are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species can be found in the United States and Canada, nine more in...

s, kites
Kite (bird)
Kites are raptors with long wings and weak legs which spend a great deal of time soaring. Most feed mainly on carrion but some take various amounts of live prey.They are birds of prey which, along with hawks and eagles, are from the family Accipitridae....

, buzzard
Buzzard
A buzzard is one of several large birds, but there are a number of meanings as detailed below.-Old World:In the Old World Buzzard can mean:* One of several medium-sized, wide-ranging raptors with a robust body and broad wings....

s, and hawk
Hawk
The term hawk can be used in several ways:* In strict usage in Australia and Africa, to mean any of the species in the subfamily Accipitrinae, which comprises the genera Accipiter, Micronisus, Melierax, Urotriorchis and Megatriorchis. The large and widespread Accipiter genus includes goshawks,...

s. Old World vultures find carcasses exclusively by sight.

New World Vultures



The New World Vulture
New World vulture
The New World Vulture or Condor family Cathartidae contains seven species in fivegenera, all but one of which are monotypic. It includes five vultures and two condors found in warm and temperate areas of the Americas....

s and condor
Condor
Condor is the name for two species of New World vultures, each in a monotypic genus. They are the largest flying land birds in the Western Hemisphere.They are:* The Andean Condor which inhabits the Andean mountains....

s found in warm and temperate areas of the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 are not closely related to the similar Accipitridae, but belong in the family Cathartidae, which was once considered to be related to the storks. However, recent DNA evidence suggests that they should be included among the Accipitriformes
Accipitriformes
The Accipitriformes is an order that has been proposed to include most of the diurnal birds of prey: hawks, eagles, vultures, and many others, about 225 species in all. For a long time, the majority view has been to include them with the falcons in the Falconiformes, but some authorities have...

, along with other birds of prey. However, they are still not closely related to the other vultures, and their similarities are due to convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

. Several species have a good sense of smell, unusual for raptors, and are able to smell the dead they focus upon from great heights, up to a mile away.

Feeding



Vultures seldom attack healthy animals, but may kill the wounded or sick. When a carcass has too thick a hide for its beak to open, it waits for a larger scavenger to eat first. Vast numbers have been seen upon battlefields. They gorge themselves when prey is abundant, until their crop
Crop (anatomy)
A crop is a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion that is found in many animals, including gastropods, earthworms, leeches, insects, birds, and even some dinosaurs.- Bees :Cropping is used by bees to temporarily store nectar of flowers...

 bulges, and sit, sleepy or half torpid, to digest their food. They do not carry food to their young in their claws, but disgorge it from the crop. These birds are of great value as scavengers, especially in hot regions. Vulture stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive, allowing them to safely digest putrid carcasses infected with Botulinum toxin
Botulinum toxin
Botulinum toxin is a protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and is considered the most powerful neurotoxin ever discovered. Botulinum toxin causes Botulism poisoning, a serious and life-threatening illness in humans and animals...

, hog cholera, and anthrax
Anthrax
Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Most forms of the disease are lethal, and it affects both humans and other animals...

 bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers. New World vultures have the ability to use their corrosive vomit as a defensive projectile when threatened. New World vultures also urinate straight down their legs; the uric acid kills bacteria accumulated from walking through carcasses, and also acts as evaporative cooling.

Endangered


The vultures in south Asia, mainly in India and Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

 have almost gone extinct in just the last 10-15 years due to a drug called Diclofenac
Diclofenac
Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug taken to reduce inflammation and as an analgesic reducing pain in certain conditions....

 used as pain-killers in humans and animals Government of India has taken very late cognizance of this fact and have banned the drug for animals. However, it may take decades for vultures to come back to their earlier population level. Same problem is also seen in Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

where government has taken some late steps to conserve remaining vultures.

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