Natures wonders: a gliding animal (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Friday, November 20, 2020, 20:31 (9 days ago) @ David Turell

Tree dwelling mammal in Asia:

"Colugos are found only in Southeast Asia. The Sunda colugo ranges from Vietnam to Indonesia and the Philippine colugo lives in the southern Philippines.


"My first colugo. The size of a house cat, colugos are nocturnal mammals that live in trees. Colugos are also called “flying lemurs,” which is a misnomer because they cannot fly and they are not lemurs. A colugo has a cape of skin that stretches from its neck to the tips of its four limbs and tail. That skin, furry on top, helps colugos glide far and hide well in the canopy.

“'Wait … Oh, it has a baby!” called zoologist Priscillia Miard of Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang and leader of that evening’s search. She passed me her binoculars as the team discussed the identity of this colugo.

"'A tiny head popped out from beneath the mother’s fur, like a child peering out from under a blanket. Baby colugos cling to their mother’s furless undersides until about age 6 months, nursing on nipples near mom’s armpits.


"All colugos are master gliders, considered among the best of the 60-odd species of mammals that can glide. One Sunda colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) was recorded gliding 145 meters, almost the length of three Olympic swimming pools.


"Colugos pull off those long-distance glides with their gliding skin, known as a patagium. While other gliders like flying squirrels have a patagium that stretches to the hind feet, a colugo’s patagium continues all the way to the tip of the tail. A more expansive patagium gives a colugo extra “wing area,” which lifts and slows the animal, allowing a gentler descent than other gliders, Byrnes says. The extra skin also helps the animal glide far.

"And there is more to the patagium than skin and fur. Byrnes and his collaborators have found that the thin patagium is rich in muscles, and some parts are stiffer than others. A colugo may be able to flex those muscles to change the shape and stiffness of its patagium and thereby adjust its aerodynamics midair. Understanding the gliding biomechanics of colugos might help in the design of robotics and wing technology, Byrnes says."

Comment: I had no idea there were 60 gliding mammals. The question in my mind is why did evolution stop with gliding in these mammals and only bats developed flight wings. I'll stick with it is what God wanted.

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