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How do birds' tails work? Delta-wing theory fails to predict tail shape during flight

Publiceringsår: 2002
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 1053-1057
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Volym: 269
Nummer: 1495
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: Royal Society


Birds appear to use their tails during flight, but until recently the aerodynamic role that tails fulfil was largely unknown. In recent years delta-wing theory, devised to predict the aerodynamics of high-performance aircraft, has been applied to the tails of birds and has been successful in providing a model for the aerodynamics of a birds tail. This theory now provides the conventional explanation for how birds tails work. A delta-wing theory (slender-wing theory) has been used, as part of a variable-geometry model to predict how tail and wing shape should vary during flight at different airspeeds. We tested these predictions using barn swallows flying in a wind tunnel. We show that the predictions are not quantitatively well supported. This suggests that a new theory or a modified version of delta-wing theory is needed to adequately explain the way in which morphology varies during flight.


  • Biological Sciences


  • ISSN: 1471-2954

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