Image of the Day: Passive Flapping

A robot model of a winged but flightless dinosaur suggests the dinosaur may have flapped its wings while moving on the ground.

May 3, 2019
Chia-Yi Hou
Researchers built a robot version of Caudipteryx for testing passive wing flapping.

A robotic version of a flightless, winged dinosaur Caudipteryx reveals how the dinosaur’s wings would have moved while the animal walked on the ground. The mechanics of the back legs during forward movement creates vibrations, leading the dinosaur to flap its wings, the researchers who built the robot report. “Although this flapping motion could not lift the dinosaur into the air at that time, the motion of flapping wings may have developed earlier than gliding,” says coauthor Jing-Shan Zhao of Tsinghua University in a press release.

Y.S. Talori et al., “Identification of avian flapping motion from non-volant winged dinosaurs based on modal effective mass analysis,” PLoS Comput Biol, doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006846, 2019.