Specialists from the Smithsonian Institution have used a 3-D printer to help an unusual bird at the National Zoo keep its species going on into the future.
The printer does not actually create new members of the Abyssinian ground hornbill family.
But the zoo said Thursday that it has collaborated with the Museum of Natural History to build a new beak for a ground hornbill that badly needed one.
Beaks are vital to the Abyssinian hornbill. Lacking teeth, it eats by picking up prey with the beak, tossing it aloft, and swallowing it.
With his worn-down lower beak, Karl, the zoo's hornbill, had problems. But a natural history museum skeleton of a long gone hornbill provided the template for a glued-on, precision engineered replacement, the zoo said.
"Now," zoo officials said, "Karl can once again use his natural behavior to eat and keep his belly full." And, one said, "hopefully propagate this species."