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.
Leslie Fink | NSF
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