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Re: The "ideal" Eumaniraptoran arm motion
The drag generated by an effective wing may not seem very significant
compared to its lift, but for evolution to progress the design, we must
consider the benefit to the very early forms. Lift, to a cursorial bird, is
useless in an upward direction. Sprinters are told to keep in contact with
the ground as much as possible, and sports cars press down as hard as they
can. Vertical lift would not be selected for unless the predator were
jumping up into the air.
However, if it were jumping up into the air, to catch insects presumably,
why would it need a sickle claw? For occasionally catching huge prey when
it wasn't going after butterflies? Anyway, if it were grabbing at insects
with its hands (and utilising the feathers as collectors), it would be
throwing its hands *up* into the air, just at the moment when, for upward
thrust, it should be pushing backwards, downwards, or anywhere in the
basically opposite direction.
--Original Message--From: Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. : Wednesday, March 03, 1999
Subject: RE: Arms into wings
>At 05:20 PM 3/2/99 -0500, Patrick Norton wrote:
>>I guess I'm suggesting that overall function of the arm and hand as prey
>>capturing devices must have been compromised over time once selection
>>began acting to improve aerodynamic performance. If you are running
>>after a dragonfly and flapping, you can't also be grabbing for it with
>>your hands-- at least not without breaking the flapping rhythm.
>(I didn't just read that, did I?)
>The "chasing a dragonfly" model is about as dead as _Archaeopteryx_. No
>I know of considers that a likely life habit: heck, even Ostrom was only
>partly serious when proposing it.
Ah good. So two possibilities now remain for the use of aerodynamic wings
in cursorial activities: forward thrust, and turning corners (that's
assuming no-one is going to suggest they ran along and one day just took
WRT forward thrust, that is what asymmetric feathers are all about. The
vast majority of vertical lift is generated by the aerofoil shape of the
whole wing (and a bit of vortex handling in advanced forms, certainly not
the first in the line). The asymmetric feathers on the other hand (both
hands actually) towards the end of the wing are used on the downstroke to
give thrust, ie lift in a forward direction - they automatically angle
themselves. Before this can happen, the creature has to be in a habit of
flapping its arms up and down, it has to have arms long enough for this to
have a worthwhile effect (and the shorter the arms, the faster they have to
be flapped), it has to have not just feathers on its arms, but they have to
be blade shaped with the fibres locked together, and aligned adequately...
...all this *before you get any beneficial effect at all* !
Or alternatively, wings were used for changing direction. If they were used
to give differential thrust from opposing wings, the same arguments apply as
for purely forward thrust. If they were used as passive rudders, they would
need some vertical component to their angle, and the animal would have to be
running very fast indeed for any noticeable benefit to accrue. No
particularly perfect aerodynamic shape would be necessary as a slab shape
would still get some force off the air, though the earliest feathers would
have had to have made a fairly air-proof screen.
Which of these two is now the preferred BAMM scenario?
>Archie would presumably be going after more substantial game (lizards,
>sphenodontians, etc.), and dromaeosaurids much more substantial game (other
>More to the point, as Padian & Gauthier showed back in 1985, the predatory
>strike of a eumaniraptoran forelimb uses the same basic movements in the
>same sequence as the flight stroke: it would be a synchronized movement.
What is this predatory strike doing? Snagging prey? - Why the big muscles?
Clubbing it? - The hand morphology is wrong - bones too spindly, claws not
suitable for high speed heavy collisions.
Skewering it? - The claws are not long and thin like a modern birds of
Slicing it? - What are the teeth and foot claws for?
We're looking for a big change in behaviour here. I'm afraid saying "It
just happened" won't quite do.
Patrick Norton (I think I'm right this time!) said on 2 March 99:
>My own theory about this is that the feet may have taken over the role of
>the hands in prey capture as the arms became more dedicated to flight. As
>a hypothesis for this, I would suggest that the evolution of the reversed
>hallux (development of grasping ability by the feet) and the
>carpometacarpus (loss of grasping ability in the hands) are related
When I read this first, I thought you were talking about the sickle claw as
a repalcement for the now-winged hands, and I wrote:
This is an extremely valid point, and I don't remember ever hearing anyone
mention it before. It suggests that somewhere along the line, hands were
just not cutting the mustard as far as direct predation use is concerned.
This would suggest the change in hand design was probably not for the
purpose of predation.
Betty (presumably no relation to Jim) said (also 2 March 99)
>Why would it reduce prey capture? Bats use their wings to capture
>bugs-it makes a dandy scoop that funnels everything small to the mouth.
>If the proto-wings were being used in an equivalent manner (and not
>trying to hold a creature up in the air) I could see them being even
>more efficient for this purpose than that of bats.
Bats don't actually scoop them up in their wings as a steam express used to
scoop water, they catch them in the wing-end as a lacrosse player might
catch the ball, then flick the insect back into the.. er.. caudal patagium,
and thence to the mouth.
But if catching insects in the feathers is such a potentially effective use
for feathers, why do 0 out of 3210 species of insect-eating birds do it
today? (All right Roger - 1/3210!)
--Original Message-- From: James R. Cunningham <firstname.lastname@example.org>To:
email@example.com : Wednesday, March 03, 1999 09:54 AM
>I think you guys may be slightly overestimating the amount of drag
involved. To roughly quantify it, a 360 pound animal with a 36 foot wing,
moving at 45 mph and carrying its full weight with its wings, would generate
about 15 pounds of drag (half profile, half induced). This applies whether
the wings are feathered or membraned. Were he to unload his wings, the
induced drag component would go to zero, leaving only 7.5 pounds of profile
drag, 3.75 pounds on each wing. This describes a big animal. A smaller or
slower animal with shorter arms would generate much less
>drag. At what point does the drag become inconsequential? For that matter,
by flapping a bit, pronating on the downstroke, and supinating appropriately
on the recovery, the animal can make net thrust exceed net drag, to the tune
of about 1/3 g available for horizontal acceleration in the direction of
choice. At what point does net >thrust become consequential?<
Aren't we begging the question here? All this applies to a highly tuned
flying entity. What would be the equivalents for structures say 1% starling
wing and 99% witch's broomstick?