When March of the Penguins came out in 2005, I sat watching as male (yes, male) emperor penguins fed their newborn chicks a substance from their throats which was described as high in antibodies and providing special protection for the newly hatched chicks.
I remember turning to my husband and whispering, "colostrum!"
And this week a study in Genomics bears that out.
The study analyzed the genes and proteins of the "milk" of pigeons, flamingoes, and male emperor penguins, do in fact produce in their crop (a compartment near the throat where birds store and soften food), a "milk" with antibodies and fats which serve the same function as mammalian colostrum. These three species are the only ones known to produce this "milk."
The study's authors conclude, "This mechanism is an interesting example of the evolution of a system with analogies to mammalian lactation, as pigeon 'milk' fulfils a similar function to mammalian milk, but is produced by a different mechanism."
Oh, how good it feels to be right.