Vane macrostructure of primary feathers and its adaptations to flight in birds


Authors marked in boldface are EvolEcol members. Authors with asterisk are undergrad students.

Pap PL, Vincze O, Vágási CI, Salamon Z*, Pándi A*, Bálint B*, Nord A, Nudds RL, Osváth G 2018. Vane macrostructure of primary feathers and its adaptations to flight in birds. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (in press).

Abstract
The selection pressures that drive flight feather morphology are poorly understood. Using a phylogenetic comparative approach and data from 178 species of birds, we investigated whether both the position along the wing length and flight feather length affected vane structure. We found that barb density was lower on distal primaries than proximal primaries of the leading feather vane. In contrast, on the trailing vane only the mid point barb density differed and, here, it showed denser barbs on the distal primaries. This difference was a denser at the feather base than the tip. Barb angle was higher along the full length of the leading edge vane on the proximal than compared with the distal primaries. Overall, barb density decreased from base to tip on both trailing and leading vanes on both the proximal and distal primaries. In general barb angle was less acute at the feather base than at the tip. Broadly, barbs were denser in continuous flapping fliers than in soarers and the angle of barbs on both the proximal and distal primaries was affected by flight type. We could not, however, identify consistent differences in the pattern of barb angle change among flight style groups. Our findings add new perspectives to our understanding of the functional morphology of flight feather vane, but we still have limited knowledge on how aerodynamic forces, particularly during take-off and landing, affect the morphology of the feather vane.

Additional keywords: barb angle – barb density – flight – flight feathers – functional morphology – feather vane

figure1_suppl_new

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