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Wings Versus Legs in the Avian Bauplan

Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

Ashley M. Heers and Kenneth P. Dial (2014)
Wings Versus Legs in the Avian Bauplan: Development and Evolution of
Alternative Locomotor Strategies.
Evolution (advance online puiblication)
DOI: 10.1111/evo.12576

Wings have long been regarded as a hallmark of evolutionary
innovation, allowing insects, birds and bats to radiate into aerial
environments. For many groups, our intuitive and colloquial
perspective is that wings function for aerial activities, and legs for
terrestrial, in a relatively independent manner. However, insects and
birds often engage their wings and legs cooperatively. In addition,
the degree of autonomy between wings and legs may be constrained by
tradeoffs, between allocating resources to wings versus legs during
development, or between wing versus leg investment and performance
(because legs must be carried as baggage by wings during flight and
vice versa). Such tradeoffs would profoundly affect the development
and evolution of locomotor strategies, and many related aspects of
animal ecology. Here, we provide the first evaluation of wing versus
leg investment, performance and relative use, in birds – both across
species, and during ontogeny in three precocial species with different
ecologies. Our results suggest that tradeoffs between wing and leg
modules help shape ontogenetic and evolutionary trajectories, but can
be offset by recruiting modules cooperatively. These findings offer a
new paradigm for exploring locomotor strategies of flying organisms
and their extinct precursors, and thereby elucidating some of the most
spectacular diversity in animal history.