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Microraptor aerodynamics and arboreal flight
In the new Biological Journal of the Linnean Society:
Colin Palmer (2014)
The aerodynamics of gliding flight and its application to the arboreal
flight of the Chinese feathered dinosaur Microraptor.
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 113 (3): 828–835
Special Issue: Celebrating Dinosaur Island
The evolution of avian flight is contentious and while it is now well
established that modern birds are descended from theropod dinosaurs
and that the presence of feathers predates the ability to fly, the
process of transition from feathered, ground based dinosaurs to their
feathered, flight capable descendants is less clear. While the
evolutionary and behavioural aspects have been considered in detail,
much less attention has been paid to the morphologies required to
sustain flight, even in the simple case of gliding flight – the likely
locomotory mode of the Chinese feathered dinosaur, Microraptor. Basic
aerodynamic principles are used to define the minimum requirements for
flight in terms of the necessary flight surfaces and flight stability.
The results are applied to the interpretation of wind tunnel tests on
a full scale model of the Chinese feathered dinosaur, Microraptor and
show that complex aerodynamic surfaces offer no clear advantages for
gliding flight in an arboreal environment.