Gulper, ripper and scrapper - Publication on the anatomy of birds

That's a great start for the new year 2020: Avineck Postdoc Christine Böhmer and her colleagues have published their results on the comparative anatomy of three species of vultures (Böhmer et al. 2020 Journal of Anatomy).

Vultures, as obligate scavengers, have occupied a special ecological niche by exclusively feeding on carrion. Competition among sympatric taxa led to preference of certain types of food from a carcass. Via comparative dissections we systematically described the anatomy of the head−neck system in three sympatric species of vultures representing gulpers, rippers and scrappers.

Gulpers such as the Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) feed primarily on the softer viscera. In contrast, rippers such as the Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) feed primarily on the tough skin and hide of a carcass. Scrappers (or peckers) such as the Hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) feed primarily on small scraps on and around the carcass.

In our study (Böhmer et al. 2020 J Anatomy) we found differences in the number of cervical vertebrae, in the morphology of the atlas-axis complex as well as in the neck musculature despite overall similarities in the musculoskeletal system. The overall muscle topography is conserved, but we found differences in the musculoskeletal system that may reflect functional adaptations to the specific feeding habits.


Böhmer C, Prevoteau J, Duriez O and Abourachid A (2020). Gulper, ripper and scrapper: anatomy of the neck in three species of vultures. Journal of Anatomy. DOI: 10.1111/joa.13129.

Böhmer C, Plateau O, Cornette R and Abourachid A (2019). Correlated evolution of neck length and leg length in birds. Royal Society Open Science 6: 181588. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181588.

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