Bird or bat: comparing airframe design and flight performance

Bioinspir Biomim. 2009 Mar;4(1):015001. doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/4/1/015001. Epub 2009 Mar 4.

Abstract

Birds and bats have evolved powered flight independently, which makes a comparison of evolutionary 'design' solutions potentially interesting. In this paper we highlight similarities and differences with respect to flight characteristics, including morphology, flight kinematics, aerodynamics, energetics and flight performance. Birds' size range is 0.002-15 kg and bats' size range is 0.002-1.5 kg. The wingbeat kinematics differ between birds and bats, which is mainly due to the different flexing of the wing during the upstroke and constraints by having a wing of feathers and a skin membrane, respectively. Aerodynamically, bats appear to generate a more complex wake than birds. Bats may be more closely adapted for slow maneuvering flight than birds, as required by their aerial hawking foraging habits. The metabolic rate and power required to fly are similar among birds and bats. Both groups share many characteristics associated with flight, such as for example low amounts of DNA in cells, the ability to accumulate fat as fuel for hibernation and migration, and parallel habitat-related wing shape adaptations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Energy Transfer / physiology*
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Species Specificity
  • Wings, Animal / physiology*