Flapping baby birds give clues to origin of flight


By Science Daily

How did the earliest birds take wing? Did they fall from trees and learn to flap their forelimbs to avoid crashing? Or did they run along the ground and pump their “arms” to get aloft?

The answer is buried 150 million years in the past, but 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.


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