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Gliding in mammals



Possibly OT, but I'm posting it here because this very topic was
raised on the DML quite recently... and it might be relevant to the
evolution of aerial behavior in maniraptoran theropods.

Byrnes, G. and Spence, A.J. (2011) Ecological and biomechanical
insights into the evolution of gliding in mammals.  Integr. Comp.
Biol. (2011) doi: 10.1093/icb/icr069 First published online: June 29,
2011

Abstract: "Gliding has evolved independently at least six times in
mammals.  Multiple hypotheses have been proposed to explain the
evolution of gliding.  These include the evasion of predators,
economical locomotion or foraging, control of landing forces, and
habitat structure.  Here we use a combination of comparative methods
and ecological and biomechanical data collected from free-ranging
animals to evaluate these hypotheses.  Our comparative data suggest
that the origins of gliding are often associated with shifts to
low-quality diets including leaves and plant exudates.  Further, data
from free-ranging colugos suggest that although gliding is not more
energetically economical than moving through the canopy, it is much
faster, allowing shorter times of transit between foraging patches and
therefore more time available to forage in a given patch.  In addition
to moving quickly, gliding mammals spend only a small fraction of
their overall time engaged in locomotion, likely offsetting its high
cost.  Kinetic data for both take-off and landing suggest that
selection on these behaviors could also have shaped the evolution of
gliding.  Glides are initiated by high-velocity leaps that are
potentially effective in evading arboreal predators.  Further, upon
landing, the ability to control aerodynamic forces and reduce velocity
prior to impact is likely key to extending distances of leaps or
glides while reducing the likelihood of injury.  It is unlikely that
any one of these hypotheses exclusively explains the evolution of
gliding, but by examining gliding in multiple groups of extant animals
in ecological and biomechanical contexts, new insights into the
evolution of gliding can be gained."