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Re: Coracoid/scapula (was Re: flying Archie)

Birds that are recently flightless, and/or still use their forelimbs for locomotion, tend to retain a mobile joint. Penguins do, and so do flightless grebes, both of which use the wings in subaquatic locomotion.

The use of the forelimbs in subaqueous locomotion is pretty limited in grebes, however. In the most recent kinematic study of grebes (in last year's JEB), the wings appear to have been used little to none while swimming. Grebes do still generate lift while swimming, but they do so with the feet (which was actually the main punch line of the aforementioned paper). Short-winged grebes (Rollandia microptera) still use the wings in escape runs over the water surface, however, so that should be taken into account (as other species may do something similar).


--Mike Habib