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, 204 (Pt 16), 2873-98

A Computational Model for Estimating the Mechanics of Horizontal Flapping Flight in Bats: Model Description and Validation

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  • PMID: 11683442

A Computational Model for Estimating the Mechanics of Horizontal Flapping Flight in Bats: Model Description and Validation

P Watts et al. J Exp Biol.

Abstract

We combine three-dimensional descriptions of the movement patterns of the shoulder, elbow, carpus, third metacarpophalangeal joint and wingtip with a constant-circulation estimation of aerodynamic force to model the wing mechanics of the grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) in level flight. Once rigorously validated, this computer model can be used to study diverse aspects of flight. In the model, we partitioned the wing into a series of chordwise segments and calculated the magnitude of segmental aerodynamic forces assuming an elliptical, spanwise distribution of circulation at the middle of the downstroke. The lift component of the aerodynamic force is typically an order of magnitude greater than the thrust component. The largest source of drag is induced drag, which is approximately an order of magnitude greater than body form and skin friction drag. Using this model and standard engineering beam theory, we calculate internal reaction forces, moments and stresses at the humeral and radial midshaft during flight. To assess the validity of our model, we compare the model-derived stresses with our previous in vivo empirical measurements of bone strain from P. poliocephalus in free flapping flight. Agreement between bone stresses from the simulation and those calculated from empirical strain measurements is excellent and suggests that the computer model captures a significant portion of the mechanics and aerodynamics of flight in this species.

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