Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Study Suggests Missing Link that Explains How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly

17.01.2003


Ken Dial, who is a professor of vertebrate morphology and a licensed commercial pilot, holds an adult chukar partridge in his flight lab at the University of Montana.
Photo Credit: K.P. Dial, University of Montana


Two-legged dinosaurs may have used their forelimbs as wing-like structures to propel themselves rapidly up steep inclines long before they took to the skies, reports a University of Montana researcher in the January 17 issue of the journal Science. The new theory adds a middle step that may link two current and opposing explanations for how reptiles evolved into flying birds.

According to Kenneth Dial, author of the report, the transition from ground travel to flight may have required a "ramp-up" phase in which rapid movement of the animals’ front appendages actually forced its body downward to gain more foot traction as it made its way up increasingly vertical slopes.

"The big dilemma has been, ’How do you explain the partial wing?,’" says Dial, who is a professor of vertebrate morphology and ecology. "It turns out the proto-wings-precursors to wings birds have today-actually acted more like a spoiler on the back of a race car to keep the animal sure-footed even while climbing up nearly vertical surfaces," he said.



"The development and role of movement in animals is critical to every aspect of their lives," says William Zamer of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the agency that funded the study. "The results may also one day help humans design better vehicles for both land and air travel."

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education in all fields of science and engineering.

The evolution of flying vertebrates has been a bone of contention since the 1800’s. One school, which embraced the cursorial theory, argued that two-legged, ground-dwelling animals developed feathered wings that allowed them to become airborne. The opposing school, which favored the arboreal theory, held that flight originated in tree-dwelling animals that leapt from limb to limb and eventually developed gliding structures to soften their landings. For a century-and-a-half, each camp has tendered evidence to challenge the opposing theory.

The solution, Dial says, may lie in an ordinary flapping behavior, which he calls "wing-assisted incline running," or WAIR, found in many modern-day hatchling and adult birds. "Although this behavior is common in nature, " he writes, WAIR’s role in the evolution and survival of birds "has remained unappreciated" because it happens in short bursts that are difficult to study in the wild.

So, Dial, who is also a licensed commercial an instrument-rated pilot, applied to partridges devices that sensed g-force and used high-speed film to document wing orientation in a laboratory setting. He found that newly hatched birds, yet unable to fly, successfully used WAIR to climb a 50-degree incline. Slightly older birds used WAIR to climb a 90-degree, or straight-up, surface, and adult birds used their wings literally to defy gravity. Wing flapping kept their bodies secured to the underside surface of a 105-degree overhang.

"A significant portion of the wing beat cycle involves...forces that push the bird toward the inclined substrate, permitting animals to run vertically," Dial observed.

Dial proposes that WAIR in modern-day birds is a remnant of their prehistoric ancestors. "In the proto-bird, this behavior would have represented the intermediate stage in the development of flight-capable, aerodynamic wings." Further re-orientation of the wings could then allow birds to make successful ascents into the air as well as safe landings.

Experts believe birds evolved from a common ancestral protoavis dinosaur some 225 million years ago during the Mesozoic era. As the continental land mass broke apart, birds inhabited all corners of the Earth. While most bird species were wiped out with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, many scientists consider birds the only true living relative of the dinosaurs.

-NSF-

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Receive official NSF news electronically through the e-mail delivery system, NSFnews. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to join-nsfnews@lists.nsf.gov. In the body of the message, type "subscribe nsfnews" and then type your name. (Ex.: "subscribe nsfnews John Smith")

Leslie Fink | NSF
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov
http://www.nsf.gov/home/news.html
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/03/pr0308_images.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond
21.11.2017 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht The main switch
21.11.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond

21.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>