Evolving flight while standing still

The other night Corwin noted one interesting aspect of the wrists paper in that we are hypothesising that the functional shift in the wrist occurred effectively to support a resting posture. Given that this wrist joint is an important component of the flight stroke, this effectively means that the ancestors of birds were evolving flight while standing still.

Humorous though this observation is, it masks another point which is that biomechanical studies and evolutionary studies of mechanics tend to focus (quite naturally) on motion. Animals that are not moving still have biomechanical issues to overcome however (like how birds rest on one foot, or horses can sleep standing upright) and while it’s easy to overlook them, this should not be forgotten.

2 Responses to “Evolving flight while standing still”


  1. 1 David 07/03/2010 at 11:19 am

    hmmm wouldn’t it make sense that Microraptor‘s feathers got that long only after it developed the flexible wrists?

    • 2 David Hone 07/03/2010 at 11:53 am

      Well as we explain in the paper, there is a chicken and egg thing – did flexible wrists permit longer hand feathers, or did long hand feathers demand a flexed wrist. Regardless however, it’s true that the origin of the felxed wrist is deep in theropods and starts to appear in tyrannosaurs and compsoganthids and continues in the maniraptorans. So while Microratpro is an extreme exponent (in both feathers and flexion) it certainly inherited a pretty flexed wrist from it’s ancestors.


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