Shifts in stability and control effectiveness during evolution of Paraves support aerial maneuvering hypotheses for flight origins.
ABSTRACT: The capacity for aerial maneuvering was likely a major influence on the evolution of flying animals. Here we evaluate consequences of paravian morphology for aerial performance by quantifying static stability and control effectiveness of physical models for numerous taxa sampled from within the lineage leading to birds (Paraves). Results of aerodynamic testing are mapped phylogenetically to examine how maneuvering characteristics correspond to tail shortening, forewing elaboration, and other morphological features. In the evolution of Paraves we observe shifts from static stability to inherently unstable aerial planforms; control effectiveness also migrated from tails to the forewings. These shifts suggest that a some degree of aerodynamic control and capacity for maneuvering preceded the evolution of a strong power stroke. The timing of shifts also suggests features normally considered in light of development of a power stroke may play important roles in control.
Project description:We report the effects of posture and morphology on the static aerodynamic stability and control effectiveness of physical models based on the feathered dinosaur, [Formula: see text]Microraptor gui, from the Cretaceous of China. Postures had similar lift and drag coefficients and were broadly similar when simplified metrics of gliding were considered, but they exhibited different stability characteristics depending on the position of the legs and the presence of feathers on the legs and the tail. Both stability and the function of appendages in generating maneuvering forces and torques changed as the glide angle or angle of attack were changed. These are significant because they represent an aerial environment that may have shifted during the evolution of directed aerial descent and other aerial behaviors. Certain movements were particularly effective (symmetric movements of the wings and tail in pitch, asymmetric wing movements, some tail movements). Other appendages altered their function from creating yaws at high angle of attack to rolls at low angle of attack, or reversed their function entirely. While [Formula: see text]M. gui lived after [Formula: see text]Archaeopteryx and likely represents a side experiment with feathered morphology, the general patterns of stability and control effectiveness suggested from the manipulations of forelimb, hindlimb and tail morphology here may help understand the evolution of flight control aerodynamics in vertebrates. Though these results rest on a single specimen, as further fossils with different morphologies are tested, the findings here could be applied in a phylogenetic context to reveal biomechanical constraints on extinct flyers arising from the need to maneuver.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Tooth morphology within theropod dinosaurs has been extensively investigated and shows high disparity throughout the Cretaceous. Changes or diversification in feeding ecology, i.e., adoption of an herbivorous diet (e.g., granivorous), is proposed as a major driver of tooth evolution in Paraves (e.g., Microraptor, troodontids and avialans). Here, we studied the microscopic features of paravian non-avian theropod and avialan teeth using high-spatial-resolution synchrotron transmission X-ray microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. RESULTS:We show that avialan teeth are characterized by the presence of simple enamel structures and a lack of porous mantle dentin between the enamel and orthodentin. Reduced internal structures of teeth took place independently in Early Cretaceous birds and a Microraptor specimen, implying that shifts in diet in avialans from that of closely related dinosaurs may correlate with a shift in feeding ecology during the transition from non-avian dinosaurs to birds. CONCLUSION:Different lines of evidence all suggest a large reduction in biting force affecting the evolution of teeth in the dinosaur-bird transition. Changes in teeth microstructure and associated dietary shift may have contributed to the early evolutionary success of stemward birds in the shadow of other non-avian theropods.
Project description:The last two decades have seen a remarkable increase in the known diversity of basal avialans and their paravian relatives. The lack of resolution in the relationships of these groups combined with attributing the behavior of specialized taxa to the base of Paraves has clouded interpretations of the origin of avialan flight. Here, we describe Hesperornithoides miessleri gen. et sp. nov., a new paravian theropod from the Morrison Formation (Late Jurassic) of Wyoming, USA, represented by a single adult or subadult specimen comprising a partial, well-preserved skull and postcranial skeleton. Limb proportions firmly establish Hesperornithoides as occupying a terrestrial, non-volant lifestyle. Our phylogenetic analysis emphasizes extensive taxonomic sampling and robust character construction, recovering the new taxon most parsimoniously as a troodontid close to Daliansaurus, Xixiasaurus, and Sinusonasus. Multiple alternative paravian topologies have similar degrees of support, but proposals of basal paravian archaeopterygids, avialan microraptorians, and Rahonavis being closer to Pygostylia than archaeopterygids or unenlagiines are strongly rejected. All parsimonious results support the hypothesis that each early paravian clade was plesiomorphically flightless, raising the possibility that avian flight originated as late as the Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous.
Project description:The peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus is renowned for attacking its prey from high altitude in a fast controlled dive called a stoop. Many other raptors employ a similar mode of attack, but the functional benefits of stooping remain obscure. Here we investigate whether, when, and why stooping promotes catch success, using a three-dimensional, agent-based modeling approach to simulate attacks of falcons on aerial prey. We simulate avian flapping and gliding flight using an analytical quasi-steady model of the aerodynamic forces and moments, parametrized by empirical measurements of flight morphology. The model-birds' flight control inputs are commanded by their guidance system, comprising a phenomenological model of its vision, guidance, and control. To intercept its prey, model-falcons use the same guidance law as missiles (pure proportional navigation); this assumption is corroborated by empirical data on peregrine falcons hunting lures. We parametrically vary the falcon's starting position relative to its prey, together with the feedback gain of its guidance loop, under differing assumptions regarding its errors and delay in vision and control, and for three different patterns of prey motion. We find that, when the prey maneuvers erratically, high-altitude stoops increase catch success compared to low-altitude attacks, but only if the falcon's guidance law is appropriately tuned, and only given a high degree of precision in vision and control. Remarkably, the optimal tuning of the guidance law in our simulations coincides closely with what has been observed empirically in peregrines. High-altitude stoops are shown to be beneficial because their high airspeed enables production of higher aerodynamic forces for maneuvering, and facilitates higher roll agility as the wings are tucked, each of which is essential to catching maneuvering prey at realistic response delays.
Project description:Aiming at the poor accuracy and difficult verification of maneuver modeling induced by the wind, waves and sea surface currents in the actual sea, a novel sea trials correction method for ship maneuvering is proposed. The wind and wave drift forces are calculated according to the measurement data. Based on the steady turning hypothesis and pattern search algorithm, the adjustment parameters of wind, wave and sea surface currents were solved, the drift distances and drift velocities of wind, waves and sea surface currents were calculated and the track and velocity data of the experiment were corrected. The hydrodynamic coefficients were identified by the test data and the ship maneuvering motion model was established. The results show that the corrected data were more accurate than log data, the hydrodynamic coefficients can be completely identified, the prediction accuracy of the advance and tactical diameters were 93% and 97% and the prediction of the maneuvering model was accurate. Numerical cases verify the correction method and full-scale maneuvering model. The turning circle advance and tactical diameter satisfy the standards of the ship maneuverability of International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Project description:With their elongated forelimbs and variable aerial skills, paravian dinosaurs, a clade also comprising modern birds, are in the hotspot of vertebrate evolutionary research. Inferences on the early evolution of flight largely rely on bone and feather morphology, while osteohistological traits are usually studied to explore life-history characteristics. By sampling and comparing multiple homologous fore- and hind limb elements, we integrate for the first time qualitative and quantitative osteohistological approaches to get insight into the intraskeletal growth dynamics and their functional implications in five paravian dinosaur taxa, Anchiornis, Aurornis, Eosinopteryx, Serikornis, and Jeholornis. Our qualitative assessment implies a considerable diversity in allometric/isometric growth patterns among these paravians. Quantitative analyses show that neither taxa nor homologous elements have characteristic histology, and that ontogenetic stage, element size and the newly introduced relative element precocity only partially explain the diaphyseal histovariability. Still, Jeholornis, the only avialan studied here, is histologically distinct from all other specimens in the multivariate visualizations raising the hypothesis that its bone tissue characteristics may be related to its superior aerial capabilities compared to the non-avialan paravians. Our results warrant further research on the osteohistological correlates of flight and developmental strategies in birds and bird-like dinosaurs.
Project description:For non-ellipsoidal extended targets and group targets tracking (NETT and NGTT), using an ellipsoid to approximate the target extension may not be accurate enough because of the lack of shape and orientation information. In consideration of this, we model a non-ellipsoidal extended target or target group as a combination of multiple ellipsoidal sub-objects, each represented by a random matrix. Based on these models, an improved gamma Gaussian inverse Wishart probability hypothesis density (GGIW-PHD) filter is proposed to estimate the measurement rates, kinematic states, and extension states of the sub-objects for each extended target or target group. For maneuvering NETT and NGTT, a multi-model (MM) approach based GGIW-PHD (MM-GGIW-PHD) filter is proposed. The common and the individual dynamics of the sub-objects belonging to the same extended target or target group are described by means of the combination between the overall maneuver model and the sub-object models. For the merging of updating components, an improved merging criterion and a new merging method are derived. A specific implementation of prediction partition with pseudo-likelihood method is presented. Two scenarios for non-maneuvering and maneuvering NETT and NGTT are simulated. The results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed algorithms.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Powered flight is implicated as a major driver for the success of birds. Here we examine the effectiveness of three hypothesized pathways for the evolution of the flight stroke, the forelimb motion that powers aerial locomotion, in a terrestrial setting across a range of stem and basal avians: flap running, Wing Assisted Incline Running (WAIR), and wing-assisted leaping. METHODS:Using biomechanical mathematical models based on known aerodynamic principals and in vivo experiments and ground truthed using extant avians we seek to test if an incipient flight stroke may have contributed sufficient force to permit flap running, WAIR, or leaping takeoff along the phylogenetic lineage from Coelurosauria to birds. RESULTS:None of these behaviours were found to meet the biomechanical threshold requirements before Paraves. Neither was there a continuous trend of refinement for any of these biomechanical performances across phylogeny nor a signal of universal applicability near the origin of birds. None of these flap-based locomotory models appear to have been a major influence on pre-flight character acquisition such as pennaceous feathers, suggesting non-locomotory behaviours, and less stringent locomotory behaviours such as balancing and braking, played a role in the evolution of the maniraptoran wing and nascent flight stroke. We find no support for widespread prevalence of WAIR in non-avian theropods, but can't reject its presence in large winged, small-bodied taxa like Microraptor and Archaeopteryx. DISCUSSION:Using our first principles approach we find that "near flight" locomotor behaviors are most sensitive to wing area, and that non-locomotory related selection regimes likely expanded wing area well before WAIR and other such behaviors were possible in derived avians. These results suggest that investigations of the drivers for wing expansion and feather elongation in theropods need not be intrinsically linked to locomotory adaptations, and this separation is critical for our understanding of the origin of powered flight and avian evolution.
Project description:Bird skeletons exhibit remarkable modifications that allow for flight. The most distinguishable features are the fusion of the bones in the hand, feet, and pelvis into composite rigid and bony structures. However, the historical origins of these avian bone fusions remain elusive because of the rarity of transitional fossils and developmental studies on modern birds. Here, we describe an Early Cretaceous bird (120 Mya) that has fully fused alular-major metacarpals and pelvis. We discuss the manus and pelvis fusions across Paravian phylogeny and demonstrate that these features evolved independently across nonavian theropods, Enantiornithes, and Ornithuromorpha. The fusions of these bones are rare in known nonavian theropods and Early Cretaceous birds but are well established among Late Cretaceous and modern birds, revealing a complicated evolution pattern unrecognized previously. We posit that the developments of bone fusion were polymorphic close to the origin of birds, resulting in the varying degrees of fusion in Paraves. However, that development polymorphism appears to be fundamentally restricted along the line to modern birds by the Late Cretaceous, where all birds have a completely fused manus and pelvis. Such changes likely correspond to a refinement of flight capability. Alternatively, the degree of bone fusion in this primitive bird may have been related to modifications in genes or developmental paths. Future studies and fossil discoveries are required to clarify these hypotheses and pinpoint the developmental pathways involving the bone fusions in early avian evolution through to their modern pattern.
Project description:Turning is crucial for animals, particularly during predator-prey interactions and to avoid obstacles. For flying animals, turning consists of changes in (i) flight trajectory, or path of travel, and (ii) body orientation, or 3D angular position. Changes in flight trajectory can only be achieved by modulating aerodynamic forces relative to gravity. How birds coordinate aerodynamic force production relative to changes in body orientation during turns is key to understanding the control strategies used in avian maneuvering flight. We hypothesized that pigeons produce aerodynamic forces in a uniform direction relative to their bodies, requiring changes in body orientation to redirect those forces to turn. Using detailed 3D kinematics and body mass distributions, we examined net aerodynamic forces and body orientations in slowly flying pigeons (Columba livia) executing level 90° turns. The net aerodynamic force averaged over the downstroke was maintained in a fixed direction relative to the body throughout the turn, even though the body orientation of the birds varied substantially. Early in the turn, changes in body orientation primarily redirected the downstroke aerodynamic force, affecting the bird's flight trajectory. Subsequently, the pigeon mainly reacquired the body orientation used in forward flight without affecting its flight trajectory. Surprisingly, the pigeon's upstroke generated aerodynamic forces that were approximately 50% of those generated during the downstroke, nearly matching the relative upstroke forces produced by hummingbirds. Thus, pigeons achieve low speed turns much like helicopters, by using whole-body rotations to alter the direction of aerodynamic force production to change their flight trajectory.