The development of a custom-designed three dimensional acceleration sensing 'backpack' has enabled scientists to examine the gliding and landing behaviour of a largely unknown nocturnal mammal in its natural habitat. The study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has provided important information which improves our understanding of the behaviour and biomechanics of gliding animals, and could aid in the design of flexible winged aircraft, like hang-gliders or micro-air vehicles.
Malayan colugos are incredible animals. They resemble very large flying squirrels, yet are a cousin to primates (adults measure around 30-40 cms long) with wings of skin between their hands and feet that are the size of a large doormat when extended.
"Despite being common throughout their natural range the Malayan colugo is quite poorly understood because it's hard to measure things about an animal that moves around at night, lives 30 metres up a tree, and can glide 100 metres away from you in an arbitrary direction in 10 seconds," said Andrew Spence, RCUK research fellow in biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary College, who teamed up with colleagues Greg Byrnes and Norman Lim. "Our new sensing backpacks have given us an insight into the behaviour of these fascinating creatures and we can now use this new technology to learn more about other inaccessible and understudied animals in the future."
The researchers were able to prove that the colugo can alter the aerodynamic forces acting upon it in flight, in order to reduce the effect of landing forces, and thus limit risk of injury. The creatures are able to glide at a steady speed and as they come in for landing they appear to be able to do a very precise manoevre that slows their speed and simultaneously orientates them correctly for spreading the impact of landing across all four limbs. The researchers were able to demonstrate a drastic reduction in landing forces for glides longer than about two seconds, where colugos are able to perform a parachute-like behaviour and re-orient themselves. This reduction in impact forces over long gliding distances has been predicted from aerodynamic theory, but until now scientists have not been able to demonstrate it conclusively in the wild.
By combining tiny microelectronic sensors and memory devices, such as the acceleration sensors that are used in automobile airbags and the Nintendo Wii controller, with memory chips founds in devices like the Ipod, the researchers were able to design miniature 'backpacks' that could be adhered to the colugo to register its movement. The researchers, working in the rainforests of Singapore and partly funded by the Singapore Zoological Gardens, were able to carefully catch the nocturnal adult colugos by hand whilst they were resting low on trees during the day. They shaved a small patch of fur off the animal, stuck the backback to its exposed skin using a surgical glue and released the animals back in the wild. Colugos, which can weigh up to 2 kg, were able to wear the sensors and glide uninhibited for several days before the adhesive naturally fails and the backpack falls to the ground. The backpacks were then recovered using a radio receiver.
Becci Cussens | alfa
Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy