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On the origin of flight in birds: new study casts another vote for trees-down


Ellen Paul

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http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/08/28/flapping-baby-birds-give-clues-to-origin-of-flight/

 

A new University of California, Berkeley, study provides a new piece of evidence – birds have an innate ability to maneuver in midair, a talent that could have helped their ancestors learn to fly rather than fall from a perch.

 

The study looked at how baby birds, in this case chukar partridges, pheasant-like game birds from Eurasia, react when they fall upside down.

The researchers, Dennis Evangelista, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Robert Dudley, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology, found that even ungainly, day-old baby birds successfully use their flapping wings to right themselves when they fall from a nest, a skill that improves with age until they become coordinated and graceful flyers.

The nestlings right themselves by pumping their wings asymmetrically to flip or roll. By nine days after hatching, 100 percent of the birds in the study had developed coordinated or symmetric flapping, plus body pitch control to right themselves.

The researchers’ study appeared Aug. 27 in the online journal Biology Letters, published by the Royal Society and is open access:

 

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/8/20140497.full.pdf+html

 

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