The Concept of Flight Essay

The Concept of Flight Essay

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The concept of flight is typically thought to be synonymous with birds, so much so that it would be a surprise to most people to learn that there are currently about 11 known families of extant birds that do not have the ability to fly (McCall). Of these 11 families, there are about 98 species that are either still living or have gone extinct in the past few decades (McCall). Another surprising fact regarding flightless birds is that flightlessness as a trait did not appear suddenly among any flying vertebrates; they all took millions of years to fly (Paul). All flightless birds belong to the class Aves, which itself belongs to the phylum Chordata and the kingdom Animalia (Flightless Birds). Within the class Aves there is a superorder known as Palaeognathae, which includes most flightless birds (University of California Museum of Paleontology). Examples of well-known Paleognathe birds include ostriches and kiwis (University of California Museum of Paleontology). This group is further divided into two groups, the tinamiformes and the ratites (University of California Museum of Paleontology). Flightless birds that are not found in superorder Palaeognathae are classified as Neognathae, another superorder which includes penguins, puffins and rails (University of California Museum of Paleontology). In literature all of these birds are often referred to as flightless, terrestrial species or aquatic species. It is generally accepted that although these bird species do not fly now, they did all came from an ancestor that did fly at some point (The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Foundation). It is also worth noting that flightlessness can be observed on a short time scale, as a rapid evolution rather than one taking thousands...


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...27. Web.
Lloyd, Robin. Theory of Flightless Birds Shot Down. 8 September 2008. Web. 1 March 2014.
McCall, Robert A., Sean Nee and Paul H. Harvey. "The role of wing length in the evolution." Evolutionary Ecology (1998): 569-580. Web.
McNab, Brian K. "Energy Conservation and the Evolution of Flightlessness in Birds." The American Naturalist (1994): 628-642. Web.
Paul, Gregory S. Dinosaurs of the air: the evolution and loss of flight in dinosaurs and birds. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2002. Print.
Roff, Derek A. "The evolution of flightlessness: is history important?" Evolutionary Ecology (1994): 693-657. Web.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Foundation. Birds Gotta Fly...Or Do They? 1 June 2008. Web. 27 February 2014.
University of California Museum of Paleontology. Introduction to the Palaeognathae. 20 August 1995. Web. 1 March 2014.

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