The biomechanical origin of extreme wing allometry in hummingbirds.
Nat Commun. 2017 Oct 19;8(1):1047
Authors: Skandalis DA, Segre PS, Bahlman JW, Groom DJE, Welch KC, Witt CC, McGuire JA, Dudley R, Lentink D, Altshuler DL
Flying animals of different masses vary widely in body proportions, but the functional implications of this variation are often unclear. We address this ambiguity by developing an integrative allometric approach, which we apply here to hummingbirds to examine how the physical environment, wing morphology and stroke kinematics have contributed to the evolution of their highly specialised flight. Surprisingly, hummingbirds maintain constant wing velocity despite an order of magnitude variation in body weight; increased weight is supported solely through disproportionate increases in wing area. Conversely, wing velocity increases with body weight within species, compensating for lower relative wing area in larger individuals. By comparing inter- and intraspecific allometries, we find that the extreme wing area allometry of hummingbirds is likely an adaptation to maintain constant burst flight capacity and induced power requirements with increasing weight. Selection for relatively large wings simultaneously maximises aerial performance and minimises flight costs, which are essential elements of humming bird life history.
PMID: 29051535 [PubMed - in process]