Lindhe Norberg, Ulla M. Department of Zoomorphology, Zoological Institute, University of Goteborg, Goteborg, Sweden.
Last reviewed:June 2019
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- Energy expenditure
- Gliding flight
- Flapping flight
- Wing shape and flight behavior
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
An animal's movement through the atmosphere sustained by aerodynamic reaction or other forces. Animal flight includes gliding and flapping flight. Gliding flight does not involve the generation of thrust, whereas flapping flight does generate thrust via the beating of wings, which are thin structures that produce lift. Four animal groups evolved flapping flight, namely insects, pterosaurs, birds (Fig. 1), and bats. Flapping flight in vertebrates was probably preceded by gliding; in insects it may have originated by leaping and gliding, by surface skimming on water, or (if small enough) by passive floating in the air. Flying insects show greater variation than flying vertebrates, and their flight spans a wider range of Reynolds numbers, which is the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces in the flow. Flight of tiny insects is in the lower range of Reynolds numbers, where viscous forces are dominant, whereas large insects and vertebrates operate in the higher range, where inertial forces are important. See also: Animal; Atmosphere; Aves; Chiroptera; Insect flight muscle; Insecta; Pterosauria; Reynolds number; Wing
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