Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Backpacking flying lemurs reveal their gliding secrets

08.02.2008
A researcher from the Royal Veterinary College, working with colleagues from the University of California at Berkeley and the National University of Singapore, has documented in detail the gliding behaviour of the Malayan colugo in the wild, for the first time, using a novel measurement technique.

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
Further information:
http://publishing.royalsociety.org/index.cfm?page=1087

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists on the road to discovering impact of urban road dust
18.01.2018 | University of Alberta

nachricht Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists have learned to change the wavelength of Tamm plasmons

24.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too

24.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Deaf children learn words faster than hearing children

24.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>