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Robotics Science

Winged Robots Hint At the Origins of Flight 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-to-mention-the-origins-of-skynet dept.
sciencehabit writes "Here's what we know about the evolution of flight: By about 150 million years ago, the forests were filled with flying — or perhaps just gliding — dinosaurs like Archaeopteryx, possibly similar to the ancestor of modern birds. What we don't know is what primitive wings were used for before bird ancestors could fly. A new study (abstract) provides some fresh data for this debate, not from fossils but from a winged robot (video included)."
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Winged Robots Hint At the Origins of Flight

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  • by JumperCable (673155) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @08:21PM (#37757368)

    Name one non-raptor based animal that uses flapping or wing like features to increase running or walking speed.

    We have all sorts of mammals and snakes that use skin flaps for gliding. Unless we have examples of non-rapture creatures that use skin flaps of some sort to do increase walking/running speed, I would think the answer is obvious.

  • by arpad1 (458649) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @09:22PM (#37757822)

    With all due respect to your smart-aleckiness, I don't think so.

    At the very least the density of water, while resulting in a superficially similar motion to wing-flapping in air, is just such so much more dense a medium I'd guess the adaptations necessary for the penguin wouldn't easily translate to the adaptations necessary for flight. Then there's the problem of intermediate forms. What are the intermediate steps between a penguin adapted to "flying" in water and a penguin-descendent adapted to flying in air?

    The "intermediate steps" problem is why I have doubts about birds evolving from purely gliding to powered flight.

    Wings adapted to the production of thrust, to improve running performance, will also generate lift when held still in an air stream. The skeletal, musculature and nervous system adaptations can occur incrementally because incremental improvements result in incremental benefits. For a bird adapted to gliding the incremental benefit that accrues incremental, but immediate, benefits is a further perfection of gliding adaptations.

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