PerspectiveEvolution

How hummingbirds stay nimble on the wing

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Science  09 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6376, pp. 636-637
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7615

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Summary

Like other modes of locomotion, powered flight is characterized by an ability to quickly change direction and speed. This ability—termed maneuverability—has far-reaching implications for animal success and survival (1, 2) but is challenging to study because it includes a wide range of distinct behaviors and is characterized by spontaneity. As a result, understanding of maneuverability is incomplete at best (24). On page 653 of this issue, Dakin et al. (5) probe the evolution of flight maneuverability in hummingbirds, which can hover with precision and skillfully use a wide range of acrobatic maneuvers (see the photos). They show that a small number of underlying traits can explain much of the diversity of maneuvering flight in hummingbirds.