A dewlap is a fold of loose skin hanging from the neck or throat of an animal.
What Is a Dewlap?
Dewlaps hang from the necks of certain species, including mammals, birds, and lizards. They tend to be more prominent among the males of a species and may be used to attract mates in birds and lizards. Scientists are less certain of the role they play in mammals, but they have several hypotheses. For example, they may help cool body temperature in hot climates.
Dewlap is pronounced |doo|- |lap|
Dewlaps on lizards can be used to help identify different species. Some lizard species have brightly colored, protruding dewlaps on their necks.
For example, the male anole lizard has a very bright, large dewlap that it keeps folded under its throat. The anole lizard can enlarge it, making its body seem much larger than it actually is. The lizard uses it for marking territory and attracting mates.
In birds, the dewlap is also called a wattle. Wattles in birds are wrinkly, masses of extra skin hanging from the bird’s neck. They can be found in birds such as turkeys, roosters, pheasants, and plovers.
Unlike lizards, which use theirs for mating and marking territory, birds use their wattles for different reasons. A bird’s wattle can help it cool down on a hot day. Since birds can’t sweat, the skin on the bird’s bare neck and wattle can help release excess heat.
Research has revealed three hypotheses as to why mammals may have them. They are below.
- It may have evolved in mammals to help attract mates by making the male look bigger than their rivals.
- It may make the animal look larger and therefore more intimidating to scare away predators.
- It may have evolved to help the animal to cool their bodies, similar to the role of the wattle in roosters and turkeys.
Other Mammals with Dewlaps
- Zebu cattle, a breed of cattle mainly found in India and Africa, have prominent flaps of neck skin that are referred to as “briefcase folds.”
- Male leopards sport dewlaps that grow larger as they age. Similar to a lion’s mane, biologists believe a male leopard’s dewlap may help attract mates and ward off rivals.
- Female rabbits pluck fur from their dewlaps to help line their nest for their young.