, Volume 194, Issue 7, pp 685-691
Date: 31 May 2008

Power and metabolic scope of bird flight: a phylogenetic analysis of biomechanical predictions

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For flying animals aerodynamic theory predicts that mechanical power required to fly scales as P ∝ m 7/6 in a series of isometric birds, and that the flight metabolic scope (P/BMR; BMR is basal metabolic rate) scales as P scope ∝ m 5/12. I tested these predictions by using phylogenetic independent contrasts from a set of 20 bird species, where flight metabolic rate was measured during laboratory conditions (mainly in wind tunnels). The body mass scaling exponent for P was 0.90, significantly lower than the predicted 7/6. This is partially due to the fact that real birds show an allometric scaling of wing span, which reduces flight cost. P scope was estimated using direct measurements of BMR in combination with allometric equations. The body mass scaling of P scope ranged between 0.31 and 0.51 for three data sets, respectively, and none differed significantly from the prediction of 5/12. Body mass scaling exponents of P scope differed significantly from 0 in all cases, and so P scope showed a positive body mass scaling in birds in accordance with the prediction.