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Mesozoic bird flight styles
From: Ben Creisler
New in PLoS One:
Wang X., McGowan, A.J. & Dyke, G.J. (2011)
Avian Wing Proportions and Flight Styles: First Step towards Predicting the
Flight Modes of Mesozoic Birds.
PLoS ONE 6(12): e28672.
We investigated the relationship between wing element proportions and flight
mode in a dataset of living avian species to provide a framework for making
basic estimates of the range of flight styles evolved by Mesozoic birds. Our
results show that feather length (fprim) and total arm length (ta) (sum of the
humerus, ulna and manus length) ratios differ significantly between four flight
style groups defined and widely used for living birds and as a result are
predictive for fossils. This was confirmed using multivariate ordination
analyses, with four wing elements (humerus, ulna/radius, manus, primary
feathers), that discriminate the four broad flight styles within living birds.
Among the variables tested, manus length is closely correlated with wing size,
yet is the poorest predictor for flight style, suggesting that the shape of the
bones in the hand wing is most important in determining flight style. Wing bone
thickness (shape) must vary with wing beat
strength, with weaker forces requiring less bone. Finally, we show that by
incorporating data from Mesozoic birds, multivariate ordination analyses can be
used to predict the flight styles of fossils.