Avian Forelimb Muscles and Nonsteady Flight: Can Birds Fly Without Using the Muscles in their Wings?

Citation data:

Auk, Vol: 109, Issue: 4, Page: 874-885

Publication Year:
1992
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Repository URL:
https://scholarworks.umt.edu/biosci_pubs/215; https://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1213&context=biosci_pubs
Author(s):
Dial, Kenneth P.
Publisher(s):
ScholarWorks at University of Montana
Tags:
Biology; Life Sciences
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article description
Intensity patterns of electromyographic (EMG) signals from selected muscles of the wing were studied during different modes of flight in trained Rock doves (Columba livia). Shoulder muscles exhibited a stereotypic pattern producing maximal EMG intensity during the deceleration phases of the upstroke and the downstroke, whereas the muscles of the brachium and antebrachium acted primarily as joint stabilizers during level flapping flight. During nonsteady flight (e.g. takeoff, landing, vertical ascending flight), the distal forelimb muscles exhibited maximal EMG intensity; their primary function appears to be associated with changing the camber and planform of the wing during rapid oscillation. During steady flight, an automatic linkage system consisting of forelimb skeletal elements and ligamentous attachments is thought to permit proper excursion of the wing as a result of forces generated solely by proximal muscles of the wing. To test this hypothesis, the medianoulnaris and radialis nerves were cut in five animals, thus eliminating the contribution of the forearm muscles, and flight tests were performed. Even though forearm muscles were incapable of contracting, the birds were capable of sustained level flapping flight. They were unable to take off independently or perform controlled landings.