Research ArticleEVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

Scaling of bird wings and feathers for efficient flight

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Science Advances  16 Jan 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 1, eaat4269
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat4269

Abstract

Aves are an incredibly diverse class of animals, ranging greatly in size and thriving in a wide variety of environments. Here, we explore the scaling trends of bird wings in connection with their flight performance. The tensile strength of avian bone is hypothesized to be a limiting factor in scaling the humerus with mass, which is corroborated by its experimentally determined allometric scaling trend. We provide a mechanics analysis that explains the scaling allometry of the wing humerus length, LH, with body weight W, LHW0.44. Lastly, wing feathers are demonstrated to generally scale isometrically with bird mass, with the exception of the spacing between barbules, which falls within the same range for birds of all masses. Our findings provide insight into the “design” of birds and may be translatable to more efficient bird-inspired aircraft structures.

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