Sharpbills eat mainly fruit, insects, and insect eggs. They get their name from their pointed bill that allows them to hunt for food using what is called "pry and gape" behavior. When a sharpbill is feeding, it often hangs upside down on a branch and uses its pointed bill to pry into fruit, tightly rolled leaves, or moss growing on the tree. It then forces its bill apart (gapes) and collects seeds or insects from inside the fruit, leaves, or moss. This type of feeding behavior is uncommon. It is an example of a physical trait, the bill, and a behavioral trait, the feeding technique, evolving, changing over time, together to give the bird an advantage over competing species.


A taxonomist is a scientist who studies the orderly classification of plants and animals. Taxonomists first look to see if two groups of plants or animals can interbreed, produce living offspring. This is the main way to define separate species. Taxonomists also look at the physical and behavioral characteristics a species shares with other species in determining their genus (JEE-nus), the first grouping above individual species, and the family, a grouping of genera (JEN-uh-rah; plural of genus). Today, taxonomists use biochemical and genetic tests to determine the relationship among species, genera, and families. Single species like sharpbills that do not seem to be closely related to any other species provide a challenge for taxonomists. Often they are reclassified several times as more information becomes available.

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