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Winged Robots Hint At the Origins of Flight

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the not-to-mention-the-origins-of-skynet dept.

Robotics 59

sciencehabit writes "Here's what we know about the evolution of flight: By about 150 million years ago, the forests were filled with flying — or perhaps just gliding — dinosaurs like Archaeopteryx, possibly similar to the ancestor of modern birds. What we don't know is what primitive wings were used for before bird ancestors could fly. A new study (abstract) provides some fresh data for this debate, not from fossils but from a winged robot (video included)."

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59 comments

This is a very interesting experiment (5, Interesting)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756882)

Because it hints at being able to model biological systems with robots, and make comparative analysis of the different advantages that might be gained. Since many features evolve in parallel, it can also be used to judge the relative chance of rapid versus gradual evolution. Good catch sciencehabit.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (2)

stms (1132653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756986)

It also has the side benefit that it can potentially help us make better robots.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757058)

it can potentially help us evolve better robots.

FTFY

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757186)

No better way to eliminate the plausibility of design than by designing it.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768410)

No better way to eliminate the plausibility of design than by designing it.

The main problem behind the idea of 'Intelligent Design' to justify the existence of a god as the ultimate designer: is that in doing so, you need another designer to design your god, and another one to design that...

So, in practice, the 'design' of living organisms is driven what improves the survivability of a species in its habitat.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769256)

No, not in the least. That ID says all complex structures -must- be designed is just something its opponents make up that ID says. As usual for such claims, nobody actually advocating ID actually says this. "Plausibly indicates design", yes. "Must be designed", no.

It's just a Straw Man to fit a particular preconceived argument, and if the facts don't justify the claim as to an opponent's position, well then, it seems, the answer is to just make up the facts and go ahead and insist what their stance is for them. Convenient, at least.

As a general metaphysical/philosophical statement, though, there is no problem saying that certain complex entities are designed, and others are not. How do I know you agree? Because you'd have no problem saying a computer is designed, but the computer's designer is not designed. Substitute "man" for "computer" and "computer's designer" for "God" here, and it should be clear enough that the objection is erroneous--and that saying by claiming a given category of thing is designed, one must claim that everything with similar must be designed, is just a non-sequitur here.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770908)

'Intelligent Design' is just one of many attempts to justify the existence of a god.

Every attempt to prove the existence of a god is fallacious, at least amongst the attempts I have seen

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37773440)

Usually, it works better to demonstrate an actual fallacy in the argument at hand than just assert all viewpoints other than yours are "fallacious" with no evidence of this provided.

But, to start, it is indeed fallacious for you to suggest that "justify" is the same as "prove", as most domains of human knowledge have as their best-case epistemological status the former and not the latter, including the hard sciences.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | more than 2 years ago | (#37777488)

Please supply a valid argument to prove one or more gods exist.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37778928)

Please supply a valid argument to prove any principle of any of the sciences.

I made it easy on you, and didn't even ask for proof of the views of the political party you ascribe to, or the principle of economics you agree with. And yes, you unquestionably agree with -one of the alternatives-. Don't be a hypocrite now--prove it.

Switching instead to the intellectually-honest form of the request you could have made, rather than suggest you want to make your decision based on a degree of "proof" that would -force you to decide in that way-, are you actually meaning you are asking for "evidence", here?

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | more than 2 years ago | (#37781656)

> Please supply a valid argument to prove any principle of
> any of the sciences.

This is not relevant to this discussion, this is a distraction.
Although this is a very interesting area of philosophy, and
one of my interests. Possibly some other time we can discuss
this.

> I made it easy on you, and didn't even ask for proof of the
> views of the political party you ascribe to, or the principle
> of economics you agree with. And yes, you unquestionably
> agree with -one of the alternatives-. Don't be a hypocrite
> now--prove it.

This is not relevant to this discussion, this is a distraction
Though it does raise interesting topics that could be
discussed some other time. (I could take time out to prove
that a minus number times a minus number is a positive
number in some mathematical systems. However, while
interesting, it would not be relevant to the topic at hand).

> Switching instead to the intellectually-honest form of the
> request you could have made, rather than suggest you want
> to make your decision based on a degree of "proof" that
> would -force you to decide in that way-, are you actually
> meaning you are asking for "evidence", here?

You are obviously being evasive.

As far as I can tell, there are no valid arguments to support
the notion of one or more gods. Your evasions, and
attempts to distract, support that notion. You seem to imply
that there exists one or more gods, but you don't appear to
actually state that there are one or more gods.

This is an area I have spent considerable time over the years.

I once sat through six long sessions were someone
attempted to discredit evolution, this was in a church
that insisted that everything in the Christian Bible
was true. Every single attempt to discredit evolution
was either flawed or irrelevant, if not both. If one had
never heard of evolution, nor any of the theory, but
had a keen intellect, they would get the impression
that evolution was superior to creationism - as many
of the attempted arguments were logically flawed and
did not need external knowledge to refute them.
However, whether evolution is right or wrong is not
relevant in this particular discussion. The sessions did
provide considerable food for thought on the nature of
religious arguments, including those relating to the
existence, or non existence, of one or more gods.

So the focus here, is on your apparent insistence that
there exists one or more gods.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37782406)

As far as I can tell, there are no valid arguments to support the notion of one or more gods.

Well, since I have basis to think it's necessary here, what do you consider "valid" and "supporting"?

Peer-reviewed medical studies? [altervista.org]

Prophecy fulfillment? (Yes, I know the standard objections. Drop all the ones remotely possibly "self-fulfilling", reduce the improbability a million-fold after that, it's still extremely improbable.) [reasons.org]

Willing martyrdom of contemporaries, that is, those in a position to -know- they are dying for a lie, if they were? [wikipedia.org]

Formal philosophical arguments? [wikipedia.org]

My guess, based on previous experience, is you mean by "valid", "whatever I need it to mean to exclude what I'm presented with", but if not, please give a clearer indicator of your expectations.

Without that, it's difficult to offer you what you say you want that you absolutely don't want. Yes, I do in fact know that from your demand for "proof" in a manner you'd do so for no other form of human endeavor or knowledge, including hundreds of like acceptances outside of religion you do every single day.

But, on with the request. I offered "evidence", per what a non-biased request in any similar domain would be. Is this qualifying for you?

As for evolution, I'm not sure why you are bringing that up. Most theists accept evolution, including myself, except in the narrow sense that you need to equivocate the meaning to, but which happens to also be completely untestable and unscientific, that is, "only evolution occurs". As an advocate of science, of course I reject that usage, as an implied exhaustive explanation of origins, as everyone actually following science (including the principle of falsifiability) must.

I think you'd need to clarify a few terms here, to continue. But, if not, no real need for us to--your outcome of becoming gone and irrelevant, along with all your arguments, is inevitable, as we'd both agree from either of our respective worldviews.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | more than 2 years ago | (#37802454)

> > As far as I can tell, there are no valid arguments to
> > support the notion of one or more gods.
>
> Well, since I have basis to think it's necessary here, what do
  > you consider "valid" and "supporting"?

It very much depends on the nature of the argument you present. There is no point in me preparing to shoot something with the equivalent of 150mm shell when a 30mm cannon is sufficient.

[...]

> My guess, based on previous experience, is you mean by
> "valid", "whatever I need it to mean to exclude what I'm
> presented with", but if not, please give a clearer indicator
> of your expectations.

Since the notion of a god conflicts with reality at a fundamental level, the flaw in a pro-god argument depends on the argument.

I am interested in your arguments to support the notion of the existence of one or more gods, rather than yet more stuff to read on the web (I already spend too much time reading in general as is!). So you should be able to at least give me an outline of an argument, we can home in on specific points as appropriate â" so leave referring to other sources for when requested.

I want to understand things, rather than to prove or disprove. So I rigorously check my understanding for self consistency, and consistency with other understandings and observations. The nature of the checks is subject matter dependent.

What is valid for looking into the fundamental nature of space and time is quite different to that required for understanding the difference between a star and a planet.

It is important to have some idea of the domain of applicability of a theory (or model), along with its strengths and weaknesses. Newtonian Mechanics is flawed, and Einstein's General Relativity better reflects reality. However, for most engineering requirements, an approximation based on Newtonian Mechanics is sufficient.

Whether I like something or not, does not change the validity of fundamental understandings.

The claims made by people who insist on the existence of one or gods, fail reasonability checks.

> Without that, it's difficult to offer you what you say you want
> that you absolutely don't want. Yes, I do in fact know that
> from your demand for "proof" in a manner you'd do so for no
> other form of human endeavor or knowledge, including
> hundreds of like acceptances outside of religion you do
> every single day.
>
> But, on with the request. I offered "evidence", per what a
> non-biased request in any similar domain would be. Is
> this qualifying for you?

Religion is its own domain AFAICT, accept that marketing and politics have similarities â" but I have not considered those fields in the same depth nor particularly rigorously.

> As for evolution, I'm not sure why you are bringing that
> up. Most theists accept evolution, including myself,
> except in the narrow sense that you need to equivocate
> the meaning to, but which happens to also be
> completely untestable and unscientific, that is, "only
> evolution occurs". As an advocate of science, of course
> I reject that usage, as an implied exhaustive explanation
> of origins, as everyone actually following science
> (including the principle of falsifiability) must.

I sat through six long session of someone trying to discredit evolution: finding flaws in their arguments was tedious, but not intellectually demanding â" I only needed to consult a competent geologist for one aspect.

Bring in 'horizontal evolution', ring species, the existence of RNA based life, etc - would have been unnecessary refinements that would have caused confusion. The different aspects of evolutionary modes, and other ways (non evolutionary) the pattern of life could change - would not be understood by creationists, and mentioning them would reinforce their belief that 'evolution' was 'wrong'.

I had a professor who was a brilliant statistician, who seriously promulgated a bogus argument based on a misunderstanding of how entropy and life are related. I met a brain surgeon who, when he found he was losing an argument against evolution, insisted that he must be right because he had more degrees than I had! - I stopped arguing as I did not want to upset him, I felt that if the multiple degrees where relevant then this should show up in a more convincing argument.

> I think you'd need to clarify a few terms here, to continue.
> But, if not, no real need for us to--your outcome of
> becoming gone and irrelevant, along with all your
> arguments, is inevitable, as we'd both agree from either
> of our respective worldviews.

(I have a job I am preparing for, a client who needs their work attending to, a course on machine learning I need to complete my homework for, and a family etc., so my time is limited for this discussion.)

All I know about your world view: is that you appear to insist that there exist one or more gods, and that you respect science to some extent, plus have thought more deeply about things than the vast majority of people.

It is not for me to tell you the best way to attempt to defend the notion of one or more gods existing.

The pastor at the church who sponsored the anti-evolution seminars, and other creationists, indulged in what I considered unethical behaviour when I pointed out apparent flaws in their attempted arguments. So a few years later, I attempted to codify some principles of ethical discussion.

If it helps at all, here are some guidelines I wrote on ethical discussions, part of a larger work I intend writing (the intention was to be of more general applicability than discussing aspects of religion):

[quoted document]
DRAFT: Friday 15-JUl-2011

Rules Of Discussion

(Spare the R.O.D. and spoil the child!)

The important thing about discussing topics, especially controversial topics, is to observe proper rules of discussion. So that all parties can share and learn safely. This assumes that the people are seeking to understand one another, or to understand the topic better - rather than insisting that their own point of view is correct, irrespective of reality.

First I will list the rules, then later I will expand on each one

1. Respect others even when they appear to disagree with you

2. Remember that if someone says something that you disagree with, that does not mean that they are wrong, nor does it mean they are right

3. Do not use emotional manipulation, nor threat of violence, to force your point of view

4. Remember drama, speaking authoritatively, or quoting authorities, is no substitute for a valid argument

5. Note that a firm belief does not automatically confer on it the status of truth

6. If someone says something you do not understand, seek to clarify

7. Do not knowingly present fallacious arguments, so check your own arguments carefully before you present them, as you should check the arguments of others

8. If someone points out a valid flaw in your argument accept it with good grace â" if it is not a flaw, explain why it is not a flaw graciously.

9. Never misquote someone, nor distort their intended meaning

10. Understand technical terms before you use them, like 'theory', and the contexts in which they are appropriate â" as the meanings of technical terms are often context dependent

Copyright Gavin C.Flower 2010-2011 (relates to the rod rules above)
[end quoted document]

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37803986)

Since you replied to few points of mine (those you apparently thought germane to your objectives), I'll do the same with respect to your rather-long post. Though, no, I won't be agreeing to any rules of debate other than logic whatsoever here, as I'd probably find that annoyingly restrictive, generally am civil anyway, and such things as you perhaps feeling "threatened" by the fact that your position inevitably loses as a simple matter of entropy isn't really my problem.

Firstly, I'd like to propose a parallel request to your "an argument supporting the existence of one or more gods", which you seem rather fixated on for rhetorical purposes in substitution to wide range of formulations that would answer something actually important (that is, whether there is a God that is by-progression-of-consensus monotheistic, and such a God should be followed)...

That would be, what would be your objections to someone meeting the proposal that "My political party is correct in its core positions" with "Present an argument proving the correctness of one or more correct political parties". Your formulation makes a metaphysical assumption, that "one or more gods" could be an actual metaphysical situation, and you want to be presented with selectively the particular arguments supporting arbitrary choice between "one or more" for what is, in fact, not a context allowing for that arbitrary selection. If in fact, there was One True Political Party (a question very much open), there logically could not be any arguments that support that particular true one being true, and equally supports all other contrary ones being true.

It would be, quite simply, an invalid formulation to the question specifically designed to be such--so that in no possible world could it be answered, not as a matter of what is true, but as a matter of your question stipulating logically-contradictory requirements such that no argument of any type, regarding any subject, could exist to meet the criteria. The way you've presented the question logically guarantees there could be no valid response, regardless of what is factually true.

I suspect you are intelligent enough to be, or become, aware you are deliberately doing this, but in the case you are simply parroting a shopworn formulation, I'll present that as a followup question/argument.

As for the (again, mostly not germane) elaborations on evolution, rather that tease apart which areas we are, and are not, in agreement on, I'll quote one statement in particular:

"The different aspects of evolutionary modes, and other ways (non evolutionary) the pattern of life could change - would not be understood by creationists, and mentioning them would reinforce their belief that 'evolution' was 'wrong'."

Well, I seem to be an (Old Earth) "Creationist", and I understand them, or at minimum a wide range of them. I'm not sure where the existence of retroviral effects et al speaks to the base question of design. It seems, in fact, the core distinction here is that you do not accept the range of "other ways (non evolutionary) the pattern of life could change", in that you exclude changes occurring as a function of design specifically. As for the historical "record" contained by DNA's structure, you would have to state how these variances could differentiate between a human and a -clone- of a human, as that is the only overt genetic manipulation required by my theological position.

What would be more significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757228)

Would be a robot (with a penis/vagina say) that could reproduce. Seriously isn't reproduction the first thing life does? Flight is far down the list.

Re:What would be more significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757478)

Self-replication using available amino acids would be the first step. Consumption of nearby DNA/RNA strands to continue self-replication would be the second.

Then creating protective membranes to stop enzymes digesting that self-replicating DNA/RNA would be the third stage. Being able to get through protective membranes would be the fourth stage. Further protective cell walls and membranes would be the fifth stage. Getting through those cell walls would be the sixth stage for virus particles.

Start adding biochemical receptors to measure acidity, salinity, temperature, pressure, chemical gradients, and bacterial methods of propulsion.

Re:This is a very interesting experiment (1)

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Re:This is a very interesting experiment (3, Interesting)

gnalle (125916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37759514)

The wings only help because the robot was designed poorly. When the robot moves without wings the body of the robot jumps up and down and it rotates along a vertical axis, and that makes it hard for the robot to move. The wings stabilize the motion of the body and presses it towards the ground, and that allows the robot to move faster.

Real beetles don't have this problem because they move their legs in a more controlled fashion. I am sure that the sameis true for the dinasaurs that turned in to birds. Therefore this experiment does not prove a lot. The team is asking the right question, but they did not come up with a denifite answer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V1631-Vcm4 [youtube.com]

Zergling Speed upgrade (2)

locopuyo (1433631) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756954)

When you research Metabolic Boost for Zerglings they get wings that improve their running speed by 60%. Any bronze level newbie knows wings improve land speed.

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (1)

arpad1 (458649) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757098)

I don't know about Zerglings but it's always struck me that the use of wings to improve land speed would be a good evolutionary intermediate step to flapping-winged flight.

The bone and muscle structure and all the supporting bodily systems wouldn't be much different between a bird that's improved its running speed by wing-flapping and a bird that can take flight for short but worthwhile distances.

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757136)

Penguins might take issue with that assessment :)

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (3, Insightful)

arpad1 (458649) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757822)

With all due respect to your smart-aleckiness, I don't think so.

At the very least the density of water, while resulting in a superficially similar motion to wing-flapping in air, is just such so much more dense a medium I'd guess the adaptations necessary for the penguin wouldn't easily translate to the adaptations necessary for flight. Then there's the problem of intermediate forms. What are the intermediate steps between a penguin adapted to "flying" in water and a penguin-descendent adapted to flying in air?

The "intermediate steps" problem is why I have doubts about birds evolving from purely gliding to powered flight.

Wings adapted to the production of thrust, to improve running performance, will also generate lift when held still in an air stream. The skeletal, musculature and nervous system adaptations can occur incrementally because incremental improvements result in incremental benefits. For a bird adapted to gliding the incremental benefit that accrues incremental, but immediate, benefits is a further perfection of gliding adaptations.

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37759008)

Ever heard of flying fish? Their fins evolved to wings so they can glide in the air away from predators in the water. Penguins jump in the air to escape from predators too. There was even a video of one jumping into an inflatable boat. It is a big stretch but still not huge to think that perhaps producing some thrust or lift in the air would benefit them.

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (2)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37759352)

There are two kinds of incremental change - small changes in gene expression/abundance/variation that give small outward changes, and small mutations that have big outward effects, e.g. six fingers on one hand, downs syndrome, sickle cell anemia. All those originally came from a single genetic misfire during replication. Who's to say wings didn't start from a physical step change that was a single base pair?

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (1)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 2 years ago | (#37760582)

If the single base pair change is what happened, all it would take to prove this is more study of the genetics of birds and their ancestors. Surely we know what genes affect wing formation in birds.

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37761862)

What are the intermediate steps between a penguin adapted to "flying" in water and a penguin-descendent adapted to flying in air?

More to the point: Penguins descended from flighted birds, and adapted to improve swimming. It seems very unlikely based on what we know of bird ancestors that they followed the reverse path, going from the water to the air.

For a bird adapted to gliding the incremental benefit that accrues incremental, but immediate, benefits is a further perfection of gliding adaptations.

You don't think incremental improvements for producing thrust or allowing control would provide incremental benefits for a gliding animal? A little more distance or a little more precision or a little more turning ability to avoid pursuing predators (or capture prey) all sound like immediate benefits to me. Once the distance gets good enough, or the control gets good enough, that the animal is not restricted to short hops then it's suddenly flying and the evolutionary doors are opened up for optimization in multiple directions.

Gliding and powered flight are not antithesis. There are clearly birds with common ancestors that have optimized for both. Tiny birds may not be very good at gliding, but birds like the albatross despite being consummate gliders also have powerful flight muscles -- just with their mass and their insane flight times/distances it's infeasible to rely on them.

That all said, I think there's promise in the idea of wings being used for ground speed improvements. It's not obviously so -- for one thing, look at the ratites like the emu or ostrich. They rely heavily on their running speed for survival, yet their wings are mostly vestigial, and their 'flight' feathers completely useless for generating thrust. This quite possibly didn't happen just once in the ratite line, but multiple times for multiple lineages. Indicating that for them at least the advantages of wings adapted for flying were not transferable to running on the ground.

Again, there's promise in the idea, but I don't think you can rule it superior to the gliding-to-flying path based on the idea of incremental improvements. The simplest incremental improvement for running is to improve the legs for running, as happened with the ratites.

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757440)

When you research Metabolic Boost for Zerglings they get wings that improve their running speed by 60%.

Any bronze level newbie knows wings improve land speed.

Which soon evolve to Muta's that enter from the back of the base and kill ur d00dz!

Re:Zergling Speed upgrade (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 2 years ago | (#37759650)

I always hoped that one day they would be able to jump up/down cliffs with them :)

And it happened several times (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757002)

I hate stating something like this without any citation, but when I was reading some textbook for a class my girlfriend was taking back in college I was surprised that flight evolved separately multiple times according to the fossil record. Intermediate wings must provide a pretty statistically significant benefit.

Re:And it happened several times (4, Funny)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757238)

I hate stating something like this without any citation, but when I was reading some textbook for a class my girlfriend was taking back in college I was surprised that flight evolved separately multiple times according to the fossil record. Intermediate wings must provide a pretty statistically significant benefit.

This [xkcd.com] is why flight evolved independently multiple times.




Oh, come on! You just knew someone was going to do it.

Re:And it happened several times (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757386)

That it happened several times is pretty obvious, given that many arthropods (such as insects) can fly, and neither birds nor mammals evolved from them.

Thing is, almost all traits commonly exhibited by living beings today have evolved more than once in history; in many cases, even numerous times. On one hand, it indicates that evolutionary cycles are much shorter than previously expected from the traditional model of random mutations reappearing every now and then until they stick by pure chance. So far as I know, modern evolutionary biology instead sees external conditions as the major guide for evolution - i.e. small random mutations don't stick around even in long term by themselves. But if a particular mutation is advantageous for the current environment, and it sticks - that in turn makes other synergetic mutations viable, and the whole process starts to cascade from there. Furthermore, not only such mutations affect the species that they happen in, but they also affect other species that interact with this one (existing predators or symbiotes start having troubles, and either evolve to get back in line, or are pushed out and replaced by someone else) - so cascade in fact sweeps the entire ecosystem.

And mutations themselves are actually common enough that, on geological scales, a significant change in environment is practically guaranteed to induce a certain change of the species, similar even among different independent evolutionary groups, even if intermediate stages can be subtly or even significantly different. E.g. dinosaurs have evolved to something bird-like more than once independently (and I don't mean just flying, but bird-type feathers and lack of teeth - general "bird-like" appearance). In mammals, different groups of them have evolved the same three-bone ear structure that's unique to mammals in two different ways - a distinct one for Prototheria, and another for the rest of them Similarly, several different groups of dinosaurs have showed development of several (and seemingly independent) traits that are basic for mammals - only one group actually evolved into real mammals, but if it didn't, then some other would have done - and yet mammals would likely look largely the same as they do today; the end result was "pre-programmed" by environment and new evolutionary niches it made available to fill.

Re:And it happened several times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37758604)

Given that bats and birds diverged well before either could fly, it seems fairly obvious that flight has evolved more than once.

Flying insects, too. Insects diverged much earlier on an evolutionary scale :)

Human gliders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757022)

How about this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaMTSOI1Zk4 [youtube.com]

Not wings, per se, but maybe stretched flaps of skin? Also, it looks like shi7-tons of fun

Re:Human gliders (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37758364)

The lack of a parachute would make any organism that tried to do that naturally a very definite evolutionary dead end.

Re:Human gliders (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#37759222)

The lack of a parachute would make any organism that tried to do that naturally a very definite evolutionary dead end.

Picture the mother of Archaeopteryx, Marthaopteryx mourning his untimely demise.

Captain Obvious (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757270)

What we don't know is what primitive wings were used for before bird ancestors could fly.

Jump farther [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Captain Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37763574)

Did you read the article? They are trying to explain what primitive wings were used for before bird ancestors could fly.

Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for speed (3, Insightful)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757368)

Name one non-raptor based animal that uses flapping or wing like features to increase running or walking speed.

We have all sorts of mammals and snakes that use skin flaps for gliding. Unless we have examples of non-rapture creatures that use skin flaps of some sort to do increase walking/running speed, I would think the answer is obvious.

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37758182)

If gliding is faster than walking/running, then isn't using flapping to glide technically increasing running or walking speed?

Heh, the quote at the bottom of the page: "Misfortunes arrive on wings and leave on foot."

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#37759240)

If gliding is faster than walking/running, then isn't using flapping to glide technically increasing running or walking speed?

Heh, the quote at the bottom of the page: "Misfortunes arrive on wings and roller skates, and leave on foot."

FTFY

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37761958)

If gliding is faster than walking/running, then isn't using flapping to glide technically increasing running or walking speed?

No, because it's technically not running or walking.

It's the same reason using my legs to run isn't technically increasing my sitting speed. :P

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (2)

Triklyn (2455072) | more than 2 years ago | (#37758578)

I think naming such a species could be precluded by the observation that it appears that it would only work in bipeds, or at least in animals that have an extra set of limbs that aren't being used for locomotion or something equally important. there really aren't that many redundant limbs to work with.

We might have had some, except for the whole tool making thing; bats are tree dwelling rats, as long as they could still climb a bit, insects, it's damn easy to pop out extra arms on those buggers, and T-rex foreplay sticks.

i don't know, maybe both paths are possible, bats through gliding and birds through running, I mean, the presumed ancestors were pretty good runners right? what the hell did they need to glide for?

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (1)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 2 years ago | (#37758958)

I think naming such a species could be precluded by the observation that it appears that it would only work in bipeds, or at least in animals that have an extra set of limbs that aren't being used for locomotion or something equally important. there really aren't that many redundant limbs to work with.

Birds don't have a redundant set of limbs, what were their arms have been switched to just be wings. They are now mostly avian bipeds, except for those who have lost the ability to fly such as penguins and ostriches.

We might have had some, except for the whole tool making thing; bats are tree dwelling rats, as long as they could still climb a bit,

That is my point. All we have are examples of animals that are either gliders or have evolved from gliders. Bats didn't evolve their wings for running. Then we have flying squirrels, sugar gliders & "flying" snakes that have all evolved extended skin flaps for extending their gliding distance between trees.

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (1)

WebHikerOriginal (605852) | more than 2 years ago | (#37758876)

How fast can YOU run with your arms held by your side? There's huge benefit in swinging your arms while running, and I'm sure I'd start flapping too if chased by something bigger than me with teeth. There's also huge benefits in terms of balance if rapidly changing direction while running, or navigating tricky terrains slowly. Flying could then be the added advantage of not dying when you fall.

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763328)

How fast can YOU run with your arms held by your side? There's huge benefit in swinging your arms while running, and I'm sure I'd start flapping too if chased by something bigger than me with teeth.

I'm not sure, but I think I could run faster with my arms by my side rather than flapping them out at my sides. I'd hope for your sake that you'd pump your arms, rather than flap them, if pursued by a predator.

But in any case that's us humans.

Birds, on the other hand, can run quite rapidly with their wings at their sides. Not just flightless birds, but birds that can fly but often choose to run -- e.g. roadrunners -- do so with their wings folded. Why would a bird with fully developed wings not use them if they provided an advantage running? Why would birds that had adapted to life on the ground and running from predators lose their flight feathers if they were advantageous?

I would say the reason is that wings are not very effective for running compared to legs. The best way to propel yourself along the ground is to push off of the ground, not off of the air. Wings are for creating lift -- which would be useful for gliding or jumping, but not running.

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37759952)

Unless we have examples of non-rapture creatures that use skin flaps of some sort to do increase walking/running speed

These post-rapture hell creatures are indeed scary! Oh, the pain of humanity being eaten by lizards with skin flaps! The suffering! ;)

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37760224)

Can't think of a running example but what about an animal that has evolved to be flat as possible for camouflage reasons? The Horned Lizard comes to mind. That thing just looks like it could glide if you threw it but it never evolved that shape by gliding.

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#37760458)

Unless we have examples of non-rapture creatures

Tim Lehay is in charge of that project.

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37760626)

actually, just about every bipedal animal does exactly that, including us, specially if they don't have a large tail.

Re:Name one non-rapator that uses flapping for spe (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770058)

quail

Feathers also useful as rainjackets (2)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 2 years ago | (#37758826)

Small warm-blooded animals have a tough time keeping warm, particularly in rain. Some people who study hibernation have theorized that wings and feathers both came from the need to have something like a rainjacket, that could deflect rain, but could also be opened up to vent excess heat during exercise, based on the huge primary feathers of many waterfowl, that cover their whole backs and sides.

ground flapping (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37761082)

The theory that flight evolved with proto birds using flapping wings to climb inclines is based on actual bird behavior. A bird running up an incline WILL use it's wings to help scale the slope. It is possible that flight evolved from both ends of the scale, with proto birds using their wings to help climb trees and then glide to another.

What wings used for before flight? (1)

TooTechy (191509) | more than 2 years ago | (#37761602)

This is too obvious and therefore likely wrong. But when an animal jumps from tree to tree (vague thoughts of Monty Python "Swinging from tree to tree") it holds it's arms out. When a runner jumps a long gap, s/he continues to pedal the legs as if there is something to pedal on. The arms being out stretched would, initially, be of little aerodynamic value but, with a little evolution here and there, would soon be of advantage to the animal enabling it to leap further if they had some extra skin attached under the arms. How much further of a leap is it to assume that an evolved, small aerodynamic surface would benefit the next round, or that moving the limbs, like we humans do in a long jump, would assist the "jump"?

Parachuting (1)

shawnhcorey (1315781) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762788)

Feathers evolved to enhance parachuting, that is, slowing the fall when jumping out of trees. When the smooth scales of lizards began to change, they didn't enhance any survival trait except create greater wind resistance. This slowed the creature down when it had to jump to get away from predators. Even today, small mammals jump from heights and use their fur to slow them down. There is no question, early birds were accustomed to jumping from heights and wings evolved to change the jump to a glide.

Need to know the ROI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37766182)

Comparing the energy invested in flapping vs incremental improvement in motion would seem important, not to mention the energy invested in creating the wings in the first place.

Maybe not flying (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37773022)

But maybe just stabilization in water at first (like fishes' fins and penguins), then later stabilization while sliding on muddy or icy land into landing slower from larger heights, gliding into flying.

Three origins. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#37792806)

Flight has actually originated in three seperate events. Birds, bats, and insects.

Re:Three origins. (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#37793576)

Don't forget the fish.

Re:Three origins. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#37793856)

Really they just jump a long ways.
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