when did birds start to fly

The reason ground birds prefer to run may have something to do with a period of their early lives when they were unable to fly: before a baby ground bird can launch itself into the air, its only means of getting off the ground is by vertical running. This is true even though adult ground birds are usually perfectly capable of flying up trees. Furthermore, as Dial’s experiments demonstrate, even a partially developed wing can make all the difference between a juvenile’s life and death when it comes to escaping a predator in this manner.

It’s possible that early birds used their wings for running rather than flying. When sprinting up steep inclines, the animals increased their traction by flapping their front appendages. Kenneth Dial of the University of Montana makes this claim in a paper that was just published in the journal Science. In an October 2001 talk, Dial described his wing-assisted incline running (WAIR) hypothesis to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. The following is a report from that meeting by Scientific American writer Kate Wongs, which first appeared in the magazine’s January 2002 issue.

BOZEMAN, MONT. –Sympathetic clucks and coos are uncommon during a presentation to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. These are the scientists who research Tyrannosaurus rex and other terrifying prehistoric animals, after all. However, Kenneth Dial received precisely that response when, during the organization’s annual meeting in October of last year, he presented video footage of a fuzzy little partridge chick that had its wings taped to its sides and was attempting to climb a tree before falling into Dial’s waiting hands. But unhindered, the chick rose, flapping its little wings as it went, and rose steadily. The University of Montana biologist teased the audience with its sentimental display before getting back to business, explaining how this and other ground-dwelling bird experiments inspired him to develop a new theory about the origin of avian flight.

After discovering that partridges and other ground birds frequently flee the terra firma in favor of trees and other elevated areas for safety, Dial had his “aha” moment. Upon closer examination, he discovered that although these animals appeared to fly up into trees, in many of them, they were actually running up, with their bodies pitched toward the tree and their legs bent, while flapping their wings. Further investigation found that, similarly to how a spoiler presses a race car against a track, wing flapping helps the bird stick to the side of the tree during this vertical running.

Just as the cursorial hypothesis gained traction among paleontologists, so did the theory that birds descended from dinosaurs. However, there are explanatory gaps in both the arboreal and cursorial scenarios. Not a single one of the hundreds of nonavian gliding vertebrates that live in trees today flaps its appendages. And why, according to Dial, would natural selection have preferred the development of small protowings in a theropod with highly muscular legs for sprinting across the ground? Dial claims that neither theory fully accounts for the series of incremental adaptations that resulted in fully developed flight mechanics.

Flight characteristics edit

Four physical forces—lift, weight, drag, and thrust—must be favorably combined for flight to occur. For birds to maintain a balance between these forces, they need specific physical traits. All flying birds, with the exception of hummingbirds, have asymmetrical wing feathers that aid in producing thrust and lift. Because of friction, anything moving through the air creates drag. A bird’s aerodynamic body can reduce drag, but its tail and feet will increase drag when it stops or slows down. The biggest challenge birds face when trying to fly is weight. If an animal’s absolute weight is decreased, it can achieve flight more readily. Due to rapid evolutionary changes and a period of size reduction during the Middle Jurassic, birds evolved from other theropod dinosaurs. [3] As flying birds evolved, their gonads shrank during the mating season, they lost teeth, and their bones fused together, all of which contributed to a further decrease in relative weight. A thin, keratin-based bill took the place of the teeth, and the bird’s gizzard processed its meal. Additional sophisticated anatomical features that evolved for flight include an enlarged cerebellum for fine motor coordination and a keel for the attachment of flight muscles. However, these were not strict requirements for flight; the earliest birds had teeth, a small keel at most, and relatively unfused bones. These were gradual changes. Although pneumatic bone, which is hollow or packed with air sacs, has frequently been viewed as a weight-loss adaptation, non-flying dinosaurs already possessed it, and birds’ skeletons are generally not lighter than those of mammals of the same size. The furcula, a bone that improves skeletal bracing for flight-related stresses, is comparable. [citation needed].

The majority of an avian’s wing motions occur at the shoulder, where a complex interplay of forces is involved in the mechanics of the wing. These operations rely on the precise balance of loads on the wing from inertial, gravitational, and aerodynamic sources as well as from the muscles, ligaments, and articular cartilages. [4].

Birds fly primarily using their pectoralis and supracoracoideus muscles, which are located in their wings. The largest muscle in the wing, the pectoralis, serves as the main pronator and depressor of the wing. The principal elevator and supinator is the second-largest, supracoracoideus. Distal wing muscles are another set of muscles that help the bird fly. [5].

Feathers were present on the bodies of many dinosaur species before they appeared on birds. Over tens of millions of years, as the animals’ wings developed, natural selection made feathers more common among them. When in flight, a bird’s smooth feathered body helps to minimize friction. The feathers in the tail also aid in the bird’s ability to glide and maneuver. [7].

Arboreal model edit

This model was originally proposed[21] in 1880 by Othniel C. Marsh. According to theory, Archaeopteryx was a bird of reptiles that soared from tree to tree. Archaeopteryx would then use its wings as a balancing mechanism following the leap. This model suggests that Archaeopteryx evolved gliding as a means of energy conservation. A cursorial bipedal runner uses less energy over time than an arboreal Archaeopteryx because it can glide faster and farther during the gliding phase, even though it still requires energy to climb the tree. This is a more energy-efficient model because energy is saved during the gliding phase. As a result, the advantages of gliding exceed the energy expended on climbing the tree. An example of contemporary behavior to contrast with would be the flying squirrel. Arboreality is typically positively correlated with survival in addition to energy conservation, at least in mammals. [22].

Numerous theories have been put forth to explain the evolutionary route that led from arboreality to flight. According to Dudley and Yanoviak, animals that live in trees typically reach a height where a fall—whether intentional or not—would produce enough speed for the body to be affected by aerodynamic forces. Even non-flying animals can demonstrate the ability to upright and face the ground ventrally. This is known as parachuting, and it involves actions that counteract aerodynamic forces to slow the animal’s rate of descent. [22] Arboreal animals that fell from trees that displayed these kinds of behaviors or were driven by predators would have been in a better position to eventually evolve abilities more akin to modern-day flight.

According to studies that support this theory, Archaeopteryx had skeletal characteristics that are comparable to those of contemporary birds. The first such characteristic to be identified was the purported resemblance between Archaeopteryx’s foot and that of contemporary perching birds. It was long believed that the hallux, or modified first digit of the foot, pointed posterior to the other digits, similar to how perching birds do. As a result, scientists previously came to the conclusion that Archaeopteryx utilized the hallux to help them balance on tree limbs. Thermopolis specimen of Archaeopteryx, which has the most complete foot of any known specimen, was studied to determine whether or not the hallux was actually reversed. This finding suggests that the creature lived on land or climbed trees. [23] The curved claws on modern birds and Archaeopteryx share another skeletal similarity. The claw curvature of Archaeopteryx’s foot was identical to that of perching birds. Nonetheless, Archaeopteryx’s hand’s claw curvature resembled that of basal birds. Given the similarities between modern birds and Archaeopteryx, perching traits were evident, indicating an arboreal habitat. A supracoracoideus pulley system (SC) was originally believed to be necessary for the ability to take off and fly. This system permits the humerus to rotate during the upstroke by connecting the humerus and coracoid bones through a tendon. However, this system is lacking in Archaeopteryx. Based on experiments performed by M. It was established in 1936 [24] that the SC pulley system was required for cursory takeoff but not for flight from an elevated position.


What was the first bird to fly?

Archaeopteryx is considered by many to be the first bird, being of about 150 million years of age. It is actually intermediate between the birds that we see flying around in our backyards and the predatory dinosaurs like Deinonychus.

How did birds develop ability to fly?

We propose that birds evolved from predators that specialized in ambush from elevated sites, using their raptorial hindlimbs in a leaping attack. Drag-based, and later lift-based, mechanisms evolved under selection for improved control of body position and locomotion during the aerial part of the attack.

How long have flying birds been around?

Bird flight began to evolve some 150 million years ago. This chapter discusses typical structures of the oldest bird-like fossils of Archaeopteryx.

How did the bird learn to fly?

It is widely known that birds learn to fly through practice, gradually refining their innate ability into a finely tuned skill. However, according to a psychologist these skills may be easy to refine because of a genetically specified latent memory for flying.