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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
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Video: Why Fly When You Can Flap?
23 June 2011 10:24 am
If you've ever seen a pigeon encounter a sharply inclined tree branch or other steep obstacle, you've probably also seen it "flap run." Rather than fly over these barriers, pigeons—and most other birds—climb up them while fluttering their wings, a behavior scientists refer to as "wing-assisted incline running." To figure out why birds do this, researchers implanted sensors in the wing and primary flight muscles of three pigeons, and had them traverse steep inclines in the lab. Flap running was over 10 times more energy efficient than flying, the team reports online today in The Journal of Experimental Biology, creating just enough aerodynamic force to push the birds' bodies upward while also supporting some of their body weight. In addition to solving the mystery of flap running, the findings may shed light on the evolution of flight in the ancestors of birds, dinosaurs.
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*This item has been corrected. Flap running was over 10 times more efficient than flying, not 10% more energy efficient.