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Re: glide to fly



I envy Paul Sparks.  Porpoises melted my heart on my ocean wanderings 25
years ago, but I never saw any flying fish.  He says there was a recent
chance to see them again.  I missed it!  I don't even know what GME
means!

I wonder if a flying fish gets any advantage from flapping.  Maybe
nobody has found out.

The advantage of a fish's leap would seem marginal.  Being bigger, the
pursuing fish would have more speed and stamina.  Probably the pursuer
could pretty well keep up with the glide and estimate where the prey
would splash down.  

Even an inefficient, rudimentary form of powered flight would be a big
advantage.  If the prey could make a turn and stay aloft thirty meters,
the bigger fish wouldn't know where to go until it heard the distant
splash.  This seems like strong evolutionary pressure to evolve lift by
flapping.

Sometimes a piece of evidence works for both sides of an argument.  I
don't know how many millions of generations of flying fish have been
jumping and flapping, but as far as I know, none has developed enough
lift to turn.  That shows what a trick it is to develop lift and thrust
by flapping.  (Kids: don't try this at home!)

The flying fish is inspiring because it seems so close to powered
flight.  There is another animal whose powered flight is much worse than
the flying fish's gliding.  It doesn't go fast enough, far enough, or
high enough to escape a predator, and its control is so poor that it
doesn't know where it will come down.  Still, this primitive flight
serves its survival so well that it has never cleaned up its act.  

This animal has inspired me since I was ten because it's a case where
flight doesn't have to be at all efficient to fill the need.  To me,
this suggests the circumstances under which dinosaurs learned to fly.

I'd better shut up.  I'm afraid I'll be convicted of fantasy if I name
any names.  I've been catching heat from the boss.  I gather I remind
him of a villain I never heard of, and I don't know what terrible thing
he did.  Anyway I don't want to have my tongue cut out.  :)

- Stephen Throop

(Here today and gone tomorrow?)