Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 194, Issue 7, pp 685–691

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

Short Communication

Abstract

For flying animals aerodynamic theory predicts that mechanical power required to fly scales as P ∝ m7/6 in a series of isometric birds, and that the flight metabolic scope (P/BMR; BMR is basal metabolic rate) scales as Pscope ∝ m5/12. 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. Pscope was estimated using direct measurements of BMR in combination with allometric equations. The body mass scaling of Pscope 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 Pscope differed significantly from 0 in all cases, and so Pscope showed a positive body mass scaling in birds in accordance with the prediction.

Keywords

Bird flight energy cost Metabolic scope Aerodynamics Phylogenetic contrasts Scaling 

List of symbols

A

equivalent flat plate area

A1

field resting metabolic rate

A2

metabolic rate of arbitrary non-foraging behaviour

b

wing span

BMR

basal metabolic rate

C

rate of energy consumption during foraging

E

gross energy intake

g

acceleration due to gravity

k

induced drag factor

K

metabolic ceiling

m, m0

body mass

P

mechanical power required to fly

Pdep

rate of energy accumulation

Pflight

flight metabolic rate

Pmp

mechanical power required to fly at minimum power speed

Pscope

flight metabolic scope

RMR

resting metabolic rate

Sd

wing disc area (πb2/4)

t1, t2

time periods

U

flight speed through the air

Umigr

overall migration speed

λ

phylogenetic dependence

ρ

air density

ΔT50H

temperature at 50% DNA dissociation in DNA–DNA hybridization

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Theoretical EcologyLund UniversityLundSweden

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