A cineradiographic analysis of bird flight: the wishbone in starlings is a spring

Science. 1988 Sep 16;241(4872):1495-8. doi: 10.1126/science.241.4872.1495.


High-speed x-ray movies of European starlings flying in a wind tunnel provide detailed documentation of avian skeletal movements during flapping flight. The U-shaped furcula (or "wishbone," which represents the fused clavicles) bends laterally during downstroke and recoils during upstroke; these movements may facilitate inflation and deflation of the clavicular air sac. Sternal movements are also coupled with wingbeat, ascending and retracting on downstroke and descending and protracting on upstroke in an approximately elliptical pathway. The coupled actions of the sternum and furcula appear to be part of a respiratory cycling mechanism between the lungs and air sacs.