A number of animals have evolved AERIAL LOCOMOTION, either by powered
flight or by gliding . FLYING AND GLIDING ANIMALS (_volant_ animals)
have evolved separately many times, without any single ancestor.
Flight has evolved at least four times, in the insects , pterosaurs ,
birds , and bats . Gliding has evolved on many more occasions. Usually
the development is to aid canopy animals in getting from tree to tree,
although there are other possibilities. Gliding, in particular, has
evolved among rainforest animals, especially in the rainforests in
Asia (most especially
Borneo ) where the trees are tall and widely
spaced. Several species of aquatic animals , and a few amphibians have
also evolved to acquire this gliding flight ability, typically as a
means of evading predators.
* 1 Types
* 1.1 Unpowered
* 1.2 Powered flight
* 1.3 Externally powered
Evolution and ecology
* 2.1 Gliding and parachuting
* 2.2 Powered flight
* 3 Biomechanics
* 3.1 Gliding and parachuting
* 3.2 Powered flight
* 4 Limits and extremes
* 4.1 Flying/soaring
* 4.2 Gliding/parachuting
* 5 Extant flying and gliding animals
* 6 Extinct flying and gliding animals
* 6.2 Non-avian dinosaurs
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
Animal aerial locomotion can be divided into two categories—powered
and unpowered. In unpowered modes of locomotion, the animal uses on
aerodynamics forces exerted on the body due to wind or falling through
the air. In powered flight, the animal uses muscular power to generate
aerodynamic forces. Animals using unpowered aerial locomotion cannot
maintain altitude and speed due to unopposed drag, while animals using
powered flight can maintain steady, level flight as long as their
muscles are capable of doing so.
These modes of locomotion typically require an animal start from a
raised location, converting that potential energy into kinetic energy
and using aerodynamic forces to control trajectory and angle of
Energy is continually lost to drag without being replaced,
thus these methods of locomotion have limited range and duration.
* Falling : decreasing altitude under the force of gravity , using
no adaptations to increase drag or provide lift .
Parachuting : falling at an angle greater than 45° from the
horizontal with adaptations to increase drag forces. Very small
animals may be carried up by the wind . Some gliding animals may use
their gliding membranes for drag rather than lift, to safely descend.
* Gliding flight : falling at an angle less than 45° from the
horizontal with lift from adapted aerofoil membranes . This allows
slowly falling directed horizontal movement, with streamlining to
decrease drag forces for aerofoil efficiency and often with some
maneuverability in air. Gliding animals have a lower aspect ratio
(wing length/breadth) than true flyers.
Powered flight has evolved only four times (first in insects, then in
pterosaurs, birds and bats). It uses muscular power to generate
aerodynamic forces and to replace energy lost to drag.
* Flapping : moving wings to produce lift and thrust. May ascend
without the aid of the wind, as opposed to gliders and parachuters.
Ballooning and soaring are not powered by muscle, but rather by
external aerodynamic sources of energy: the wind and rising thermals,
respectively. Both can continue as long as the source of external
power is present. Soaring is typically only seen in species capable of
powered flight, as it requires extremely large wings.
* Ballooning : being carried up into the air from the aerodynamic
effect on long strands of silk in the wind. Certain silk-producing
arthropods , mostly small or young spiders, secrete a special
light-weight gossamer silk for ballooning, sometimes traveling great
distances at high altitude.
* Soaring : gliding in rising or otherwise moving air that requires
specific physiological and morphological adaptations that can sustain
the animal aloft without flapping its wings. The rising air is due to
thermals , ridge lift or other meteorological features . Under the
right conditions, soaring creates a gain of altitude without expending
energy. Large wingspans are needed for efficient soaring.
Many species will use multiple of these modes at various times; a
hawk will use powered flight to rise, then soar on thermals, then
descend via free-fall to catch its prey.
EVOLUTION AND ECOLOGY
GLIDING AND PARACHUTING
While gliding occurs independently from powered flight, it has some
ecological advantages of its own. Gliding is a very energy -efficient
way of travelling from tree to tree. An argument made is that many
gliding animals eat low energy foods such as leaves and are restricted
to gliding because of this, whereas flying animals eat more high
energy foods such as fruits , nectar , and insects. In contrast to
flight, gliding has evolved independently many times (more than a
dozen times among extant vertebrates), however these groups have not
radiated nearly as much as have groups of flying animals.
Worldwide, the distribution of gliding animals is uneven as most
inhabit rain forests in Southeast
Asia . (Despite seemingly suitable
rain forest habitats, few gliders are found in
New Guinea and
none in Madagascar.) Additionally, a variety of gliding vertebrates
are found in
Africa , a family of hylids (flying frogs ) lives in
South America and several species of gliding squirrels are found in
the forests of northern
Asia and North America. Various factors
produce these disparities. In the forests of Southeast Asia, the
dominant canopy trees (usually dipterocarps ) are taller than the
canopy trees of the other forests. A higher start provides a
competitive advantage of further glides and farther travel. Gliding
predators may more efficiently search for prey. The lower abundance of
insect and small vertebrate prey for carnivorous animals (such as
lizards) in Asian forests ( In Australia, many mammals (and all
mammalian gliders) possess, to some extent, prehensile tails.
An abundance of lianas (woody vines) may obstruct gliders but aid
climbers with prehensile tails. The differing populations may relate
to the prevalence in
South America (compared to
Africa or Southeast
Asia) of animals with prehensile tails . Arguably, gliding animals
prosper in Southeast
Asia because the forests are more open (with more
room to glide) than those in South America. In dense forests, a
prehensile tail enables better tree to tree movement. Also, South
American rainforests tend to have more as there are fewer large
animals to eat them compared to
Africa and Asia; these lianas
Because small animals necessarily have higher surface to volume
ratios than larger species of similar form, aerodynamic forces have a
greater effect on them, resulting in much lower terminal velocity in
free fall and amplifying the effects of even small alterations to body
surface area. These small changes provide incremental benefits towards
further development of gliding.
Analogous flying adaptions in vertebrates :
* pterosaur (
* bat (
* bird (
Powered flight has evolved unambiguously only four times—birds ,
bats , pterosaurs , and insects . In contrast to gliding, which has
evolved more frequently but typically gives rise to only a handful of
species, all three extant groups of powered flyers have a huge number
of species, suggesting that flight is a very successful strategy once
Bats , after rodents , have the most species of any mammalian
order, about 20% of all mammalian species .
Birds have the most
species of any class of terrestrial vertebrates . Finally, insects
(most of which fly at some point in their life cycle) have more
species than all other animal groups combined.
The evolution of flight is one of the most striking and demanding in
animal evolution, and has attracted the attention of many prominent
scientists and generated many theories. Additionally, because flying
animals tend to be small and have a low mass (both of which increase
the surface area to mass ratio), they tend to fossilize infrequently
and poorly compared to the larger, heavier-boned terrestrial species
they share habitat with. Fossils of flying animals tend to be confined
to exceptional fossil deposits formed under highly specific
circumstances, resulting in a generally poor fossil record, and a
particular lack of transitional forms. Furthermore, as fossils do not
preserve behavior or muscle, it can be difficult to discriminate
between a poor flyer and a good glider.
Insects were the first to evolve flight , approximately 350 million
years ago. The developmental origin of the insect wing remains in
dispute, as does the purpose prior to true flight. One suggestion is
that wings initially were used to catch the wind for small insects
that live on the surface of the water, while another is that they
functioned in parachuting, then gliding, then flight for originally
Pterosaurs were the next to evolve flight, approximately 228 million
years ago. These reptiles were close relatives of the dinosaurs (and
sometimes mistakenly considered dinosaurs by laymen), and reached
enormous sizes, with some of the last forms being the largest flying
animals ever to inhabit the Earth, having wingspans of over 9.1 m (30
ft). However, they spanned a large range of sizes, down to a 250 mm
(10 in) wingspan in _
Birds have an extensive fossil record, along with many forms
documenting both their evolution from small theropod dinosaurs and the
numerous bird-like forms of theropod which did not survive the mass
extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. Indeed, _
Archaeopteryx _ is
arguably the most famous transitional fossil in the world, both due to
its mix of reptilian and avian anatomy and the luck of being
discovered only two years after Darwin's publication of _On the Origin
Species _. However, the ecology and this transition is considerably
more contentious, with various scientists supporting either a "trees
down" origin (in which an arboreal ancestor evolved gliding, then
flight) or a "ground up" origin (in which a fast-running terrestrial
ancestor used wings for a speed boost and to help catch prey).
Bats are the most recent to evolve (about 60 million years ago), most
likely from a gliding ancestor, though their poor fossil record has
hindered more detailed study.
Only a few animals are known to have specialised in soaring: the
larger of the extinct pterosaurs , and some large birds. Powered
flight is very energetically expensive for large animals, but for
soaring their size is an advantage, as it allows them a low wing
loading, that is a large wing areas relative to their weight, which
maximizes lift. Soaring is very energetically efficient.
GLIDING AND PARACHUTING
During a free-fall with no aerodynamic forces, the object accelerates
due to gravity, resulting in increasing velocity as the object
descends. During parachuting, animals use the aerodynamic forces on
their body to counteract the force or gravity. Any object moving
through air experiences a drag force that is proportion to surface
area and to velocity squared, and this force will partially counter
the force of gravity, slowing the animal's descent to a safer speed.
If this drag is oriented at an angle to the vertical, the animal's
trajectory will gradually become more horizontal, and it will cover
horizontal as well as vertical distance. Smaller adjustments can allow
turning or other maneuvers. This can allow a parachuting animal to
move from a high location on one tree to a lower location on another
During gliding, lift plays an increased role. Like drag, lift is
proportional to velocity squared. Gliding animals will typically leap
or drop from high locations such as trees, just as in parachuting, and
as gravitational acceleration increases their speed, the aerodynamic
forces also increase. Because the animal can utilize lift and drag to
generate greater aerodynamic force, it can glide at a shallower angle
than parachuting animals, allowing it to cover greater horizontal
distance in the same loss of altitude, and reach trees further away.
Unlike most air vehicles, in which the objects that generate lift
(wings) and thrust (engine/propeller) are separate and the wings
remained fixed, flying animals use their wings to generate both lift
and thrust by moving them relative to the body. This has made the
flight of organisms considerably harder to understand than that of
vehicles, as it involves varying speeds, angles, orientations, areas,
and flow patterns over the wings.
A bird or bat flying through the air at a constant speed moves its
wings up and down (usually with some fore-aft movement as well).
Because the animal is in motion, there is some airflow relative to its
body which, combined with the velocity of with wings, generates a
faster airflow moving over the wing. This will generate lift force
vector pointing forwards and upwards, and a drag force vector pointing
rearwards and upwards. The upwards components of these counteract
gravity, keeping the body in the air, while the forward component
provides thrust to counteract both the drag from the wing and from the
body as a whole.
Pterosaur flight likely worked in a similar manner,
though no living pterosaurs remain for study.
Insect flight is considerably different, due to their small size,
rigid wings, and other anatomical differences. Turbulence and vortices
play a much larger role in insect flight, making it even more complex
and difficult to study than the flight of vertebrates. There are two
basic aerodynamic models of insect flight. Most insects use a method
that creates a spiralling leading edge vortex . Some very small
insects use the fling-and-clap or Weis-Fogh mechanism in which the
wings clap together above the insect's body and then fling apart. As
they fling open, the air gets sucked in and creates a vortex over each
wing. This bound vortex then moves across the wing and, in the clap,
acts as the starting vortex for the other wing. Circulation and lift
are increased, at the price of wear and tear on the wings.
LIMITS AND EXTREMES
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* Largest. The largest known flying animal was formerly thought to
Pteranodon _, a pterosaur with a wingspan of up to 7.5 metres (25
ft). However, the more recently discovered azhdarchid pterosaur
Quetzalcoatlus _ is much larger, with estimates of the wingspan
ranging from 9 to 12 metres (30 to 39 ft). Some other recently
discovered azhdarchid pterosaur species, such as _
Hatzegopteryx _, may
have also wingspans of a similar size or even slightly larger.
Although it is widely thought that _Quetzalcoatlus_ reached the size
limit of a flying animal, it should be noted that the same was once
said of _Pteranodon_. The heaviest living flying animals are the kori
bustard and the great bustard with males reaching 21 kilograms (46
lb). The wandering albatross has the greatest wingspan of any living
flying animal at 3.63 metres (11.9 ft). Among living animals which fly
over land, the
Andean condor and the marabou stork have the largest
wingspan at 3.2 metres (10 ft). Studies have shown that it is
physically possible for flying animals to reach 18-metre (59 ft)
wingspans, but there is no firm evidence that any flying animal, not
even the azhdarchid pterosaurs, got that large.
* Smallest. There is no real minimum size for getting airborne.
Indeed, there are many bacteria floating in the atmosphere that
constitute part of the aeroplankton . However, to move about under
one's own power and not be overly affected by the wind requires a
certain amount of size. The smallest flying vertebrates are the bee
hummingbird and the bumblebee bat , both of which may weigh less than
2 grams (0.071 oz). They are thought to represent the lower size limit
for endotherm flight.
* Fastest. The fastest of all known flying animals is the peregrine
falcon , which when diving travels at 300 kilometres per hour (190
mph) or faster. The fastest animal in flapping horizontal flight may
Mexican free-tailed bat , said to attain about 160 kilometres
per hour (99 mph) based on ground speed by an aircraft tracking
device; that measurement does not separate any contribution from wind
speed, so the observations could be caused by strong tailwinds .
* Slowest. Most flying animals need to travel forward to stay aloft.
However, some creatures can stay in the same spot, known as hovering,
either by rapidly flapping the wings, as do hummingbirds , hoverflies
, dragonflies , and some others, or carefully using thermals, as do
some birds of prey . The slowest flying non-hovering bird recorded is
American woodcock , at 8 kilometres per hour (5.0 mph).
* Highest flying. There are records of a Rüppell\'s vulture _Gyps
rueppelli_, a large vulture, being sucked into a jet engine 11,550
metres (37,890 ft) above Côte d\'Ivoire in West Africa. The animal
that flies highest most regularly is the bar-headed goose _Anser
indicus_, which migrates directly over the
Himalayas between its
nesting grounds in
Tibet and its winter quarters in
India . They are
sometimes seen flying well above the peak of
Mount Everest at 8,848
metres (29,029 ft).
* Most efficient glider. This can be taken as the animal that moves
most horizontal distance per metre fallen. Flying squirrels are known
to glide up to 200 metres (660 ft), but have measured glide ratio of
Flying fish have been observed to glide for hundreds of
metres on the drafts on the edge of waves with only their initial leap
from the water to provide height, but may be obtaining additional lift
from wave motion. On the other hand, Albatrosses have measured
lift/drag ratios of 20, and thus fall just 1 meter (foot) for every
20 in still air.
* Most maneuverable glider. Many gliding animals have some ability
to turn, but which is the most maneuverable is difficult to assess.
Even Paradise tree snakes , Chinese gliding frogs , and gliding ants
have been observed as having considerable capacity to turn in the air.
EXTANT FLYING AND GLIDING ANIMALS
_ A bee in flight.
Insects (flying). The first of all animals to evolve flight,
insects are also the only invertebrates that have evolved flight. The
species are too numerous to list here.
Insect flight is an active
* Gliding bristletails (gliding). Directed aerial gliding descent is
found in some tropical arboreal bristletails , an ancestrally wingless
sister taxa to the winged insects. The bristletails median caudal
filament is important for the glide ratio and gliding control
* Gliding ants (gliding). The flightless workers of these insects
have secondarily gained some capacity to move through the air. Gliding
has evolved independently in a number of arboreal ant species from the
Pseudomyrmecinae , and
Camponotus _). All arboreal dolichoderines and non-cephalotine
myrmicines except _
Daceton armigerum _ do not glide. Living in the
rainforest canopy like many other gliders, gliding ants use their
gliding to return to the trunk of the tree they live on should they
fall or be knocked off a branch. Gliding was first discovered for
_Cephalotes atreus _ in the Peruvian rainforest. _Cephalotes atreus_
can make 180 degree turns, and locate the trunk using visual cues,
succeeding in landing 80% of the time. Unique among gliding animals,
Pseudomyrmecinae ants glide abdomen first, the
Forminicae however glide in the more conventional head first manner.
The following page has some good videos of gliding ants.
* Gliding immature insects. The wingless immature stages of some
insect species that have wings as adults may also show a capacity to
glide. These include some species of cockroach , mantid , katydid ,
stick insect and true bug .
Spiders . Although typically flightless some may engage in aerial
locomotion as described below.
* Ballooning spiders (parachuting). The young of some species of
spiders travel through the air by using silk draglines to catch the
wind, as may some smaller species of adult spider, such the money
spider family. This behavior is commonly known as "ballooning".
Ballooning spiders make up part of the aeroplankton .
* Gliding spiders (gliding). Some species of arboreal spider of the
Selenops _ can glide back to the trunk of a tree should they
Flying squid (gliding). Several oceanic squids , such as the
Pacific flying squid , will leap out of the water to escape predators,
an adaptation similar to that of flying fish . Smaller squids will
fly in shoals, and have been observed to cover distances as long as 50
metres (160 ft). Small fins towards the back of the mantle do not
produce much lift, but do help stabilize the motion of flight. They
exit the water by expelling water out of their funnel, indeed some
squid have been observed to continue jetting water while airborne
providing thrust even after leaving the water. This may make flying
squid the only animals with jet-propelled aerial locomotion. The neon
flying squid has been observed to glide for distances over 30 metres
(100 ft), at speeds of up to 11.2 metres per second (37 ft/s) .
_ Band-winged flying fish , with enlarged pectoral fins
Flying fish (gliding). There are over 50 species of flying fish
belonging to the family
Exocoetidae . They are mostly marine fishes of
small to medium size. The largest flying fish can reach lengths of 45
centimetres (18 in) but most species measure less than 30 cm (12 in)
in length. They can be divided into two-winged varieties and
four-winged varieties. Before the fish leaves the water it increases
its speed to around 30 body lengths per second and as it breaks the
surface and is freed from the drag of the water it can be traveling at
around 60 kilometres per hour (37 mph). The glides are usually up to
30–50 metres (100–160 ft) in length, but some have been observed
soaring for hundreds of metres using the updraft on the leading edges
of waves. The fish can also make a series of glides, each time dipping
the tail into the water to produce forward thrust. The longest
recorded series of glides, with the fish only periodically dipping its
tail in the water, was for 45 seconds (Video here ). It has been
suggested that the genus
Exocoetus _ is on an evolutionary borderline
between flight and gliding. It flaps its enlarged pectoral fins when
airborne, but still seems only to glide, as there is no hint of a
power stroke. It has been found that some flying fish can glide as
effectively as some flying birds.
* Halfbeaks (gliding). A group related to the Exocoetidae, one or
two hemirhamphid species possess enlarged pectoral fins and show true
gliding flight rather than simple leaps. Marshall (1965) reports that
_Euleptorhamphus viridis _ can cover 50 metres (160 ft) in two
Freshwater butterflyfish (possibly gliding). _Pantodon buchholzi_
has the ability to jump and possibly glide a short distance. It can
move through the air several times the length of its body. While it
does this, the fish flaps its large pectoral fins, giving it its
common name. However, it is debated whether the freshwater butterfly
fish can truly glide, Saidel et al. (2004) argue that it cannot.
Freshwater hatchetfish (possibly flying). There are 9 species of
freshwater hatchetfish split among 3 genera. Freshwater hatchetfish
have an extremely large sternal region that is fitted with a large
amount of muscle that allows it to flap its pectoral fins. They can
move in a straight line over a few metres to escape predators.
_ Illustration of Wallace\'s flying frog in Alfred Russel Wallace
's 1869 book
The Malay Archipelago _
Gliding has evolved independently in two families of tree frogs, the
Rhacophoridae and the
New World Hylidae. Within each lineage
there are a range of gliding abilities from non-gliding, to
parachuting, to full gliding.
Rhacophoridae flying frogs (gliding). A number of the
Rhacophoridae, such as Wallace\'s flying frog (_Rhacophorus
nigropalmatus_), have adaptations for gliding, the main feature being
enlarged toe membranes. For example, the Malayan flying frog
_Rhacophorus prominanus_ glides using the membranes between the toes
of its limbs, and small membranes located at the heel, the base of the
leg, and the forearm. Some of the frogs are quite accomplished
gliders, for example, the
Chinese flying frog _Rhacophorus dennysi_
can maneuver in the air, making two kinds of turn, either rolling into
the turn (a banked turn ) or yawing into the turn (a crabbed turn ).
Hylidae flying frogs (gliding). The other frog family that
_ The underside of Kuhl\'s flying gecko
Ptychozoon kuhli _. Note
the gliding adaptations: flaps of skin on the legs, feet, sides of the
body, and on the sides of the head.
Several lizards and snakes are capable of gliding:
* _Draco_ lizards . There are 28 species of lizard of the genus
_Draco _, found in
Sri Lanka ,
India , and Southeast
Asia . They live
in trees, feeding on tree ants, but nest on the forest floor. They can
glide for up to 60 metres (200 ft) and over this distance they lose
only 10 metres (30 ft) in height. Unusually, their patagium (gliding
membrane) is supported on elongated ribs rather than the more common
situation among gliding vertebrates of having the patagium attached to
the limbs. When extended, the ribs form a semicircle on either side
the lizard's body and can be folded to the body like a folding fan.
* Gliding lacertids . There are two species of gliding lacertid , of
the genus _
Holaspis _, found in
Africa . They have fringed toes and
tail sides and can flatten their bodies for gliding/parachuting.
* _Ptychozoon_ flying geckos . There are six species of gliding
gecko, of the genus _
Ptychozoon _, from Southeast Asia. These lizards
have small flaps of skin along their limbs, torso, tail, and head that
catch the air and enable them to glide.
* _Lupersaurus_ flying geckos . A possible sister-taxon to
_Ptychozoon_ which has similar flaps and folds and also glides.
* _Thecadactylus_ flying geckos . At least some species of
_Thecadactylus_, such as _T. rapicauda_, are known to glide.
* _Cosymbotus_ flying gecko . Similar adaptations to _Ptychozoon_
are found in the two species of the gecko genus _
Chrysopelea _ snakes. Five species of snake from Southeast Asia,
Melanesia , and
India . The paradise tree snake of southern
Philippines , and
Sulawesi is the most capable
glider of those snakes studied. It glides by stretching out its body
sideways and opening its ribs so the belly is concave, and by making
lateral slithering movements. It can remarkably glide up to 100 metres
(330 ft) and make 90 degree turns.
Birds are a successful group of
Birds (flying, soaring) — Most of the approximately 10,000
living species can fly (flightless birds are the exception). Bird
flight is one of the most studied forms of aerial locomotion in
List of soaring birds for birds that can soar as well as
Bats are the only mammal with flapping or powered flight. A few other
mammals glide or parachute; the best known are flying squirrels and
flying lemurs .
Bats (flying). There are approximately 1,240 bat species,
representing about 20% of all classified mammal species.
* Flying squirrels (subfamily
Petauristinae ) (gliding). There are
43 species divided between 14 genera of flying squirrel . Flying
squirrels are found almost worldwide in tropical (Southeast
India , and
Sri Lanka ), temperate, and even
Arctic environments. They
tend to be nocturnal . When a flying squirrel wishes to cross to a
tree that is further away than the distance possible by jumping, it
extends the cartilage spur on its elbow or wrist. This opens out the
flap of furry skin (the patagium ) that stretches from its wrist to
its ankle. It glides spread-eagle and with its tail fluffed out like a
parachute, and grips the tree with its claws when it lands. Flying
squirrels have been reported to glide over 200 metres (660 ft).
* Anomalures or scaly-tailed flying squirrels (family
(gliding). These brightly coloured African rodents are not squirrels
but have evolved to a resemble flying squirrels by convergent
evolution . There are seven species, divided in three genera. All but
one species have gliding membranes between their front and hind legs.
The genus _Idiurus_ contains two particularly small species known as
flying mice , but similarly they are not true mice.
* Colugos or "flying lemurs" (order
Dermoptera ) (gliding). There
are two species of colugo. Despite their common name, colugos are not
lemurs ; true lemurs are primates . Molecular evidence suggests that
colugos are a sister group to primates; however, some mammalogists
suggest they are a sister group to bats . Found in Southeast Asia, the
colugo is probably the mammal most adapted for gliding, with a
patagium that is as large as geometrically possible. They can glide as
far as 70 metres (230 ft) with minimal loss of height.
Sifaka , a type of lemur, and possibly some other primates
(possible limited gliding/parachuting). A number of primates have been
suggested to have adaptations that allow limited gliding and/or
parachuting: sifakas, indris , galagos and saki monkeys . Most
notably, the sifaka, a type of lemur , has thick hairs on its forearms
that have been argued to provide drag, and a small membrane under its
arms that has been suggested to provide lift by having aerofoil
* Flying phalangers or wrist-winged gliders (subfamily Petaurinae )
(gliding). Possums found in
Australia , and
New Guinea . The
gliding membranes are hardly noticeable until they jump. On jumping,
the animal extends all four legs and stretches the loose folds of
skin. The subfamily contains seven species. Of the six species in the
Petaurus _, the sugar glider and the
Biak glider are the most
common species. The lone species in the genus _
Leadbeater\'s possum has only a vestigial gliding membrane.
* Greater glider (_
Petauroides volans_) (gliding). The only species
of the genus _
Petauroides _ of the family
Pseudocheiridae . This
marsupial is found in
Australia , and was originally classed with the
flying phalangers, but is now recognised as separate. Its flying
membrane only extends to the elbow, rather than to the wrist as in
* Feather-tailed possums (family
Acrobatidae ) (gliding). This
family of marsupials contains two genera, each with one species. The
feathertail glider (_Acrobates pygmaeus_), found in
Australia is the
size of a very small mouse and is the smallest mammalian glider. The
feathertail possum (_Distoechurus pennatus_) is found in
New Guinea ,
but does not glide. Both species have a stiff-haired feather-like
_ Townsends\'s big-eared bat , (Corynorhinus townsendii_)
displaying the "hand wing"
EXTINCT FLYING AND GLIDING ANIMALS
Pterosaurs included the largest known flying animals
* Extinct reptiles similar to _Draco_ (gliding). There are a number
of unrelated extinct lizard-like reptiles with similar "wings" to the
_Draco_ lizards. _
Icarosaurus _, _
Coelurosauravus _, _Weigeltisaurus
Mecistotrachelos _, and _
Kuehneosaurus _. The largest of these,
_Kuehneosaurus_, has a wingspan of 30 centimetres (12 in), and was
estimated to be able to glide about 30 metres (100 ft).
Sharovipterygidae (gliding). These strange reptiles from the Upper
Triassic of Kyrgyzstan and
Poland unusually had a membrane on their
elongated hind limbs, extending their otherwise normal,
flying-squirrel -like patagia significantly. The forelimbs are in
contrast much smaller.
Longisquama insignis _ (possibly gliding/parachuting). This small
reptile may have had long paired feather-like scales on its back,
however it has been more recently argued that the scales form just a
single dorsal frill. If paired, they may have been used for
parachuting. "Everything you can make out is consistent with it
being a small, tree-living, gliding animal, which is precisely the
thing you'd expect birds to evolve out of," says Larry Martin, senior
curator at the Natural History Museum at the
University of Kansas .
Pterosaurs were the first flying vertebrates,
and are generally agreed to have been sophisticated flyers. They had
large wings formed by a patagium stretching from the torso to a
dramatically lengthened fourth finger. There were hundreds of species,
most of which are thought to have been intermittent flappers, and many
soarers. The largest known flying animals are pterosaurs.
Hypuronector _ (gliding). This bizarre drepanosaur displays limb
proportions, particularly the elongated forelimbs, that are consistent
with a flying or gliding animal with patagia .
* Theropods (gliding/flying). There were several species of theropod
dinosaur thought to be capable of gliding or flying, that are not
classified as birds (though they are closely related). Some species
Microraptor gui_, _
Microraptor zhaoianus_, _
Cryptovolans pauli _,
Changyuraptor _) have been found that were fully feathered on all
four limbs, giving them four 'wings' that they are believed to have
used for gliding or flying. One species, _
Deinonychus antirrhopus _,
may display partial volancy, with the young being capable of flight
while the adults are flightless, a characteristic also seen in some
modern birds like the
Horned coot and the
Flying steamer duck .
* _Yi _ is unique among gliding dinosaurs for the development of
membranous wings, unlike the feathered airfoils of other theropods.
Much like modern anomalures it developed a bony rod to help support
the wing, albeit on the wrist and not the elbow.
Thoracopteridae (gliding) is a lineage of
Triassic flying fish
Perleidiformes , having converted their pectoral and pelvic fins
into broad wings very similar to those of their modern counterparts.
Ladinian genus _
Potanichthys _ is the oldest member of this clade,
as well as the earliest aerial vertebrate known, suggesting that these
fish began exploring aerial niches soon after the Permian-Triassic
extinction event .
_ Volaticotherids predate bats as mammalian aeronauts by at least
110 million years
Volaticotherium antiquum _ (gliding). A gliding eutriconodont ,
long considered the earliest gliding mammal until the discovery of
contemporary gliding haramiyidans. It lived around 164 million years
ago and used a fur-covered skin membrane to glide through the air.
The closely related _
Argentoconodon _ is also thought to have been
able to glide, based on postcranial similarities; it lived around 165
million years ago.
* Several species of extinct bat have been found, like
Icaronycteris _, _
Palaeochiropteryx _, and _
* A gliding metatherian (possibly a marsupial ) is known from the
* The haramiyidans _
Vilevolodon _, _
Xianshou _ and _
had extensive patagia, highly convergent with those of colugos .
Flying mythological creatures
Organisms at high altitude
Organisms at high altitude
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