Listen to Episode 148 on PodBean, YouTube, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts!
Powered flight has only evolved a few times, but it’s incredible how many times and how ways evolution has produced organisms that sail through the sky. This episode, we discuss the astonishing diversity – past and present – of Gliding.
In the news
Corals have a variety of ways to pass on mutations to offspring
Africa’s oldest dinosaurs hint at how dinos spread around the world
Insights into the evolving brain shape of crocodilians
Humans remains in Borneo are the oldest known medical amputation
Almost Like Flying
Only a few lineages of life have ever evolved powered flight, the ability to move through the air in any direction without the help of the wind. But many organisms have evolved the ability to glide, using specially-adapted body parts to catch the air, allowing them to fall slowly and sometimes to cover great distances in the process.
Gliding is extremely useful for getting away from non-airborne threats, for quickly navigating an environment, or simply for avoiding a fall from a great height. And gliding is much easier than flying, requiring far less energy and fewer extreme adaptations of the body. So while the only true fliers on Earth are insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats (and machines), it’s no surprise that gliding has evolved many times in many ways.
So Many Gliders
That’s not even all of the gliders! There are also gliding frogs, gliding ants, gliding spiders, and more!
Changes in the tree canopy facilitated the evolution of the first-ever gliding reptile, new study suggests
Evolution of gliding in Southeast Asian geckos and other vertebrates is temporally congruent with dipterocarp forest development (technical, open access)
Gliding and the Functional Origins of Flight: Biomechanical Novelty or Necessity? (technical, open access)
The Biology of Gliding in Flying Lizards (Genus Draco) and their Fossil and Extant Analogs (technical, open access)
Biplane wing planform and flight performance of the feathered dinosaur Microraptor gui (technical, open access)
Potential for Powered Flight Neared by Most Close Avialan Relatives, but Few Crossed Its Thresholds (technical, open access)
If you enjoyed this topic and want more like it, check out these related episodes:
- Episode 6 – Evolution of Flight
- Episode 37 – Evolution of Birds
- Episode 59 – Bats
- Episode 79 – Pterosaurs
We also invite you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, buy merch at our Zazzle store, join our Discord server, or consider supporting us with a one-time PayPal donation or on Patreon to get bonus recordings and other goodies!
Please feel free to contact us with comments, questions, or topic suggestions, and to rate and review us on iTunes
Cats “parachute ” too. This sort of behavior can occur in larger vertebrates ( > squirrel)
Humans, when they skydive, can control their rate of fall to some extent by changing their posture. This can be useful, in that there was a case where a skydiver’s parachute streamed (came of of the pack but didn’t expand into that nice, large canopy) and he was able to survive by going into the highest drag position. He did require a bit of surgery, as he was reported to have broken every bone in his face, several ribs, and a few long bones.