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Ontogeny Of Avian Locomotion: Aerodynamics, Skeletal Kinematics, And Neuromuscular Control

Investigators
Dial, Kenneth P; Tobalske, Bret
Institutions
University of Montana
Start date
2009
End date
2011
Abstract

This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). Flight is the defining characteristic of birds, yet the mechanisms through which flight ability develops are virtually unknown. The research in this proposal will use different modes of locomotion for exploring the aerodynamic, skeletal, and neuromuscular development that leads to the capacity to fly. The experiments are designed in a comparative context using a representative precocial species (chukar partridge, born feathered and relatively independent) and an altricial species (rock dove, born naked and dependent on its parents for warmth, protection, and food provision). Through this effort, the stages of development will be compared with hypothesized ancestral forms (bipedal theropod dinosaurs) to address the origin and evolution of flight. The intellectual merit of our research is multifaceted. It shall provide novel insight into how aerodynamics, skeletal motion, neuromuscular control and muscle mechanical work and power integrate during drastically different forms of vertebrate locomotion (wing-assisted incline running and level, ascending and descending flight). Furthermore, these data - for the very first time - will be obtained over a complete range of age classes during post-hatching avian development. The broader impacts of this work are also multi-fold. The work will provide new data for engineers to utilize in constructing autonomous robots that are capable climbing as well as flying. Heretofore, efforts appear to focus upon terrestrial, swimming, or flying robots, and engineers appear to have overlooked the efficacy offered by a robot that can accomplish both terrestrial and aerial locomotion. Pectoralis development in galliform birds will ultimately inform practical questions in the human biomedical, veterinary and human-food industries. Galliform birds (turkey, chicken) and pigeons are model systems for aspects of medical research, and the pectoralis and other muscle tissue of galliform birds is an important food item for humans. The investigators will continue their outreach to diverse populations to explain research results.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project number
919799
Commodities
Meat, Poultry, Game