Photo: Chick shows off the wonderfully odd anatomy of flamingos

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98 of 1129

Our photo of the day offers a great lesson in the strange mechanics of flamingo legs.

As if flamingos weren't zany enough what with their candy-colored plumage, exuberant bills, gracefully gawky stature and single-stilt balancing act – but then there's the curious anatomy of those pencil-thin legs. Have you ever wondered how they bend their knees backwards when resting on one leg? It's because it's not their knees, but rather very highly positioned ankles attached to very long feet. If you don't believe me, take it from Scientific American:

One of the most recognisable traits of this leggy bird is how it seems to prefer to stand on one leg – even when asleep – with what appears to be its knee bent backwards. This is actually its ankle and heel; the flamingo's knee is located much further up the limb, hidden underneath its feathers. The whole area from the ankle to the toes is actually a giant foot.

The joint that looks like an ankle, right down the bottom, is actually the beginnings of the toes. So effectively half the flamingo’s legs are actually its feet, and the normal stance for a flamingo is on its tiptoes. This arrangement makes more sense when you see a flamingo chick, whose legs and feet are still developing.

And thankfully, look at this, our photo of the day: flamingo chick, whose legs and feet are still developing. Thank you to Sam McMillan for capturing this absolutely adorable model to illustrate our anatomy lesson for the day.

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