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Aerodynamic performance of the feathered dinosaur Microraptor and the evolution of feathered flight

Aerodynamic performance of the feathered dinosaur Microraptor and the evolution of feathered flight
Aerodynamic performance of the feathered dinosaur Microraptor and the evolution of feathered flight
Understanding the aerodynamic performance of feathered, non-avialan dinosaurs is critical to reconstructing the evolution of bird flight. Here we show that the Early Cretaceous five-winged paravian Microraptor is most stable when gliding at high-lift coefficients (low lift/drag ratios). Wind tunnel experiments and flight simulations show that sustaining a high-lift coefficient at the expense of high drag would have been the most efficient strategy for Microraptor when gliding from, and between, low elevations. Analyses also demonstrate that anatomically plausible changes in wing configuration and leg position would have made little difference to aerodynamic performance. Significant to the evolution of flight, we show that Microraptor did not require a sophisticated, ‘modern’ wing morphology to undertake effective glides. This is congruent with the fossil record and also with the hypothesis that symmetric ‘flight’ feathers first evolved in dinosaurs for non-aerodynamic functions, later being adapted to form lifting surfaces
2489
Dyke, Gareth
600ca61e-b40b-4c86-b8ae-13be4e331e94
de Kat, Roeland
d46a99a4-8653-4698-9ef4-46dd0c77ba5d
Palmer, Colin
d4b02122-cc0e-4b28-bc6c-03d107acf362
van der Kindere, Jacques
b2e84c37-593f-4e52-973d-d65474230595
Naish, Darren
6cd448f6-99cc-4c45-93d1-bdd24ee3d281
Ganapathisubramani, Bharathram
5e69099f-2f39-4fdd-8a85-3ac906827052
Dyke, Gareth
600ca61e-b40b-4c86-b8ae-13be4e331e94
de Kat, Roeland
d46a99a4-8653-4698-9ef4-46dd0c77ba5d
Palmer, Colin
d4b02122-cc0e-4b28-bc6c-03d107acf362
van der Kindere, Jacques
b2e84c37-593f-4e52-973d-d65474230595
Naish, Darren
6cd448f6-99cc-4c45-93d1-bdd24ee3d281
Ganapathisubramani, Bharathram
5e69099f-2f39-4fdd-8a85-3ac906827052

Dyke, Gareth, de Kat, Roeland, Palmer, Colin, van der Kindere, Jacques, Naish, Darren and Ganapathisubramani, Bharathram (2013) Aerodynamic performance of the feathered dinosaur Microraptor and the evolution of feathered flight. Nature Communications, 4, 2489. (doi:10.1038/ncomms3489).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Understanding the aerodynamic performance of feathered, non-avialan dinosaurs is critical to reconstructing the evolution of bird flight. Here we show that the Early Cretaceous five-winged paravian Microraptor is most stable when gliding at high-lift coefficients (low lift/drag ratios). Wind tunnel experiments and flight simulations show that sustaining a high-lift coefficient at the expense of high drag would have been the most efficient strategy for Microraptor when gliding from, and between, low elevations. Analyses also demonstrate that anatomically plausible changes in wing configuration and leg position would have made little difference to aerodynamic performance. Significant to the evolution of flight, we show that Microraptor did not require a sophisticated, ‘modern’ wing morphology to undertake effective glides. This is congruent with the fossil record and also with the hypothesis that symmetric ‘flight’ feathers first evolved in dinosaurs for non-aerodynamic functions, later being adapted to form lifting surfaces

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More information

Published date: 18 September 2013
Organisations: Ocean Biochemistry & Ecosystems, Aeronautics, Astronautics & Comp. Eng

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 356059
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/356059
PURE UUID: f7ba5d5f-c85b-4ad0-b9fe-e70da55cd773
ORCID for Roeland de Kat: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6851-4409
ORCID for Bharathram Ganapathisubramani: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9817-0486

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 22 Aug 2013 13:28
Last modified: 10 Dec 2019 01:39

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