Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top 10 Most Unusual Flying And Gliding Animals

A number of animals have evolved aerial locomotion, either by flight or by gliding. Flight has evolved at least four times, in the insects, birds, pterosaurs and bats, while gliding has evolved mostly among rainforest animals, especially in Asia’s rainforests where the trees are tall and widely spaced. Here is our list of top 10 most unusual flying and gliding animal creatures:

1. Gliding Ants
Gliding ants are arboreal ants that have abilities of controling the direction of their descent and returning to their home tree trunk when they fall from branches, using visual cues to locate the trunk. They are first discovered by the insect ecologist Stephen P. Yanoviak. Some researches have shown that the gliding ants have an 85% chance of landing successfully on the same tree, as compared to 5% if they were simply parachuting like normal ants.

2. Flying Phalangers
For those who don’t know, the phalangers are apparently an Australian subfamily of possum. Flying phalangers are small (about 400 mm, counting the tail) and have folds of loose skin which help them to glide from tree to tree by jumping and holding out their limbs spread-eagle. They also have flat tails which that they use as rudders while gliding. They are able to glide through the air for up to 140 meters. The most famous flying phalanger is the sugar glider.

3. Flying Lemurs
Philippine Flying Lemur
Sunda Flying Lemur
Although called the flying lemurs, these animals can not fly and are not true lemurs; they glide and are comparable to the very large squirrels or the medium-sized possums. Flying lemurs are able to glide long distances between trees using their gliding membrane of skin that extends between their limbs and is as large as is geometrically possible. Unlike other gliding mammals, flying lemurs even have the spaces between the fingers and toes webbed to increase the total surface area (like in the wings of bats). They are know to be bad climbers but they are extremely maneuverable and able to glide over 70 meters from tree to tree with minimal loss of height. There are only two species of flying lemurs in the world – the Philippine flying lemur and the Sunda flying lemur.

4. Flying Snakes
The flying snake is a species of snake that can be found in Southeast Asia, India, southernmost China and Sri Lanka. Although the flying snakes are mildly venomous, they are considered harmless because their poison is not dangerous to humans. Flying snakes can’t really fly since they can’t actually gain altitude. They are gliders that use the speed of the fall and contortions of their bodies to catch the air and generate lift. Before the take-off, a flying snake will dangle on the end of a branch in a J shape. It propels itself from the branch with the lower half of its body, forms her body quickly into an S shape, and flattens to about twice its normal width, giving its body a concave C shape, which can trap air. The snake can make turns by undulating back and forth.

5. Flying Lizards
There are around 30 species of lizard of the genus Draco (also known as Flying Dragons) found in Sri Lanka, India, and Southeast Asia. These lizards can glide for over 60 m and over this distance they lose 10 m in height, which is quite some distance, since one of these lizards is only around 20 cm long. The flying lizards have ability to extend the ribs and their connecting membrane in order to create a wing. They also have flattened and wing-like hindlimbs, and a small set of flaps on their neck that serve them as a horizontal stabilizer. These lizards live in trees but nest on the forest floor and only time a flying lizard ventures to the ground is when a female is ready to lay her eggs.

6. Flying squirrels
Southern Flying Squirrel
Northern Flying Squirrel
The flying squirrel glides from trees using its two furry membranes that are loosely stretched between its wrists and ankles, and act as a parachute to support the squirrel while jumping. The squirrel also has a flat, furry tail which it uses as an air brake before landing on a tree trunk. The squirrel uses both its membrane and tail to steer left and right, and even to make turns of 180 degrees. The flying squirrels are one of the best gliding animals since they can glide up to 90 meters from trees.

7. Flying Frogs
Wallace's Flying Frog
Flying frogs have evolved independently among more than 3,000 species of frogs and this evolution is seen as an adaptation to their life in trees. The flying frogs developed some features that contribute to their aerodynamic abilities, such as “enlarged hands and feet, full webbing between all fingers and toes, lateral skin flaps on the arms and legs, and reduced weight per snout-vent length.” One of the largest species of flying frogs is the Wallace’s flying frog, named after Alfred Russel Wallace who made one of the earliest reports of the flying frog.

8. Flying Fish
There are around 60 species of flying fish belonging to the family Exocoetidae that live in the oceans. The flying fish have unusually large pectoral fins that enable them to escape from predators by leaping out of the water and taking short gliding flights through air above the water’s surface. To glide upward out of the water, the fish moves its tail more than 70 times per second. In 2008, a Japanese television crew recorded the longest series of glides of a flying fish that spent 45 seconds in the air, with only periodically dipping its tail in the water. It’s been suggested that the flying fish is on an evolutionary borderline between gliding and flight.

9. Flying Squid
In 2004, a group of scientists wrote a study, in the Journal of Molluscan Studies, in which they collected sightings of at least six distinct species of squid that squirt themselves out of the ocean and over the waves. According to the scientists, a term “gliding” is too passive to describe what these squids do when they leave the ocean for the air – “flight” is more fitting. The aerodynamic benefit a flying squid derives from its flapping fins and spiraled tentacles is not clear, but some scientists believe these behaviors provide extra lift and help stabilize the squid when out of the water.

10. Gliding Spiders
Ballooning is a term used for the mechanical kiting that most species of small spiders use to travel through the air. When a young spider grow strong enough to leave its mother, it hold a short length of silk and wait for the wind. When there is the wind, because of the spider’s light weight, the wind carry it to the sky as someone holding a big balloon in air. The highest record of animals in the sky is not the flying bird nor the flying insect. It is the ballooning spider.

Source : http://badcontrol.net  

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