22 October 2012

Kinematics and wing shape in flying bats: new paper from the lab

In a new study, originating from Rhea von Busse's PhD thesis, the kinematics and wing shape changes are analyzed in great detail in flying bats, Leptonycteris yerbabuenae. The movements of a great number of morphological landmarks on the wings were analyzed and interpreted with respect to aerodynamic output by the wings. For example, the wing area, angle of attack and camber of the wing all decrease as flight speed increases. This is reflecting the declining demands on the wings as force generating devices. It appears that kinematics change in ways to preserve a favorable flow regime around the wings. However, it remains to investigate how the bats gauge the flow above the wings and use that information to control the motor output, something that we hope to address in future experiments. The paper is published in the open access journal Biology Open.

17 October 2012

Animal Flight Lab meets Prof. Marianna Braza

The lab was visited by Prof. Marianna Braza from the Institut de Mécanique des Fluides de Toulouse, France, who presented her research on smart wings and turbulence of airplane landing gears. Marianna has become interested in biomimetics, i.e. obtaining design solutions from nature, with special emphasis on bird wings and ailerons. We presented out work on animal flight and dissuasions were initiated about possible future projects involving bird-inspired aerodynamic solutions, hopefully some that can become useful for future airplane designs.

29 August 2012

Autumn lab meetings have started

The members of the Animal Flight Lab at Lund are gathering for the autumn term, which is filled with activities. Our Tuesday morning meetings have resumed and on the last occasion a new paper from the Brown bat flight group was discussed. This paper, by Iriarte-Diaz et al, published in PLoS One, was about "Kinematics plasticity during flight in fruit bats: Individual variability in response to loading", showed that individual bats of the same species has different ways of modulating wing shape and kinematics to achieve increased lift as a response to loaded flight. There are many ways how to achieve increased lift coefficient, such as changing flap frequency, amplitude, wing area and camber, to mention a few. The Brown paper showed that three bats used different combinations of lift enhancing modulation. The group found this paper very interesting!

We will continue to publish updates about lab activities at this site, so stay tuned and you will receive interesting news coming soon, such as reports from field work that starts next week.

25 June 2012

Birds Best Bats In Flying Game

The scientific news site LiveScience wrote a cool piece on one of our recent publications (Comparing Aerodynamic Efficiency in Birds and Bats Suggests Better Flight Performance in Birds, PLoS ONE). The title of the piece is 'Birds Best Bats In Flying Game', and particularly their summary is entertaining: 'The bats may be trading some of their flying efficiency to carry extra echolocation equipment aboard'.

You can find the article here.

08 June 2012

New publicatiions from the wind tunnel

Two new publications have recently been published from members of AFL. They are:

Johansson LC, Engel S, Baird E, Dacke M, Muijres FT, Hedenström A (2012) Elytra boost lift, but reduce aerodynamic efficiency in flying beetles. J R Soc Interface: doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.0053

Muijres FT, Johansson LC, Bowlin MS, Winter Y, Hedenstrom A (2012) Comparing Aerodynamic Efficiency in Birds and Bats Suggests Better Flight Performance in Birds. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37335. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037335

The first shows how the elytra and functional wing in a species of large African dung beetle interact, and potentially reduce flight efficiency. The second paper is also about efficiency, but comparing birds with bats to show that birds are more efficient at cruising flight than bats, while bats may be better adapted for slow maneuvering flight using leading edge vortices.

16 May 2012

Informal seminar in Animal Flight Lab

Yesterday, on 14 May 2012, we were visited by long-term collaborator Geoff Spedding and PhD student Shanling Yang, both at USC, Los Angeles. Shanling presented their recent work on low Re aerodynamics of wings, Marco Klein Heerenbrink presented his work on gliding flight and Jonas Håkansson showed the hovering wake of a bat. The wind tunnel was inspected, as was the usual lunch pizza place.

14 March 2012

Flycatchers boost lift by Leading Edge Vortex

In a new study, published online today (14 March 2012) in Biology Letters, our lab shows that the high-lift mechanism Leading Edge Vortex (LEV) appear to be common to most animal flyers, as it appears in slow flying pied flycatchers. These birds hover and fly slowly when foraging on aerial insects, and they have a powerful downstroke when the LEV boost the lift by 100%. This is much stronger than found in for example hummingbirds, but that could be explained by the fact that the flycatcher has a feathered (inactive) upstroke. As flycatchers catch insects they need to be equally good at maneuvering in the air, and the LEV helps them to achieve the required turn radii. This mechanism was thought to be restricted to insects, as it was key to explaining why e.g. a bumblebee can fly, and subsequently our group has found this in slowly flying bats. Now, we extend the set of animas using LEV in slow flight to include also normal hoverers (i.e. animals having an inclined stroke plane and inactive back-/upstroke) in this spectacular study.

06 March 2012

New wake study of a bat from Brown university

In a new study, published on-line in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the Brown University group report on wake measurements from the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), using the PIV technique in a wind tunnel (Hubel et al.). This species differs in morphology and ecology from previously studied bat species, having higher aspect ratio wings and mainly flying in he open airspace when feeding on insects. So, does that make it's wake and aerodynamic properties different from other bats? The answer is "no"! Even if the authors argue that the Brazilian free-tailed bat has a wake very similar to that of the swift (Apus apus), it shows all of the characteristic wake features previously observed in bats. These include wing-root vortices and revers-vortices shed at the end of the upstroke. According to the authors when comparing the new data with previously studied bats: "the structure of their wakes is remarkably similar". Hence, it seems as if the notion of a typical "bat wake" receives support from this new study. Further studies will hopefully answer what features of the bat design make bat wakes different from those of birds.

10 February 2012

Sized by the wingbeat

The heaviest bat has a body mass of about 1.5 kg, which is about 10 times lower than the largest living bird species. Why this is so has puzzled scientists working on flight mechanics, since the power requirements increase approximately equally much for bats and birds. The solution lies in the muscular capacity in generating forces that beat the wings in active flight. While birds have one major depressor muscle responsible for a forceful downstroke, bats have several smaller muscles doing that same job. But the total muscle mass is smaller in bats, resulting in a lower maximum wingbeat frequency. When plotting scaling relationships for expected power required to fly, and power available from the flight muscles, it turns out that the power available curve (calculated on the basis of wingbeat frequency) does not increase as steeply as that of power required for flight. Where the two curves cross when plotted against body mass, you have the point of maximum mass for sustainable flight. In bats, this is about 1.5 kg, as shown in a new paper by Ulla Lindhe Norberg and Åke Norberg, of Gothenburg university, published in Journal of Experimental Biology. The same analysis was made earlier by Colin Pennycuick, which fixed the upper size sustained bird flight at about 12 kg. It seems as if birds have more muscle power allowing bigger size than bats. A question that follows is whether the basic bat design, having many flight muscles, prevent evolution of large size than about 1.5 kg, or if there are some additional factors limiting size?

02 February 2012

New publication in French Academy journal

In a new paper published in the French Academy of Science journal, Comptes Rendus Mechanique, members of the Lund Animal Flight Lab has published a paper about a bat-inspired flapper (see figure). The paper is entitled "Stroke plane angle controls leading edge vortex in a bat-inspired flapper", This is an attempt to mimic the flight of a true bat, and how a wing composed of a compliant membranous surface function. The advantage of working with a flapper is that it can be programmed to move its wings in all possible ways, i.e. also in ways that live bats usually don't do, and so the whole kinematic parameter space can be explored. The drawback is of course ,as with all models, to know how much the model depart in performance from the real system and if it matters. The current paper describes the development of a leading edge vortex (LEV) during the downstroke, which is an important aerodynamic ingredient of slow bat flight. The LEV dynamics was partially controlled by the stroke plane angle. A copy of the paper can be obtain my mailing (anders.hedenstrom@biol.lu.se)

20 January 2012

The Dickinson lab website in new dress

Browsing around I recently found that the Dickinson lab, where AFL memeber Florian Muijres now is a postdoc, has a new look. The old classic version can still be accessed, while the new lab website "FlyRanch" demarcates the move by this lab from CalTech, Los Angeles, to University of Washington, Seattle. The webiste shows the great range of research done by this lab. Have a look and get impressed. The lab members are assigned different characters and characteristics of typical fantasy literature creatures. The leader of the clan, overlord Michael himself is "ruthless and fearless"! Now we look forward to see which character Florian will assume.
A new paper in Current Biology from FlyRanch deals with polarized light perception in fruit flies, and could be consulted as a typical contribution.

17 January 2012

Climate change affects flight speed in wandering albatrosses

A new study published in the current issue of Science reports about climate change related effects in flight behavior in wandering albatrosses, breeding on Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. Due to climate change related phenomena the mean wind speed has increased in the southern oceans, between 50 and 60 S. Albatrosses use dynamic soaring, which is a way of extracting energy by soaring in the wind gradient in the boundary layer of the sea. The stronger the wind, the faster the albatrosses can fly. A french team, lead by Henri Weimerskirch, has studied wandering albatrosses on the Crozet Islands during 20 years. During this period the winds have increased, and the scientists have been able to measure related properties in the albatrosses. The albatrosses now forage further to the south, their flight speed has increased from 10 to 12 m/s, and their daily travel rate during foraging journeys has increased from 500 to 700 km/day. Better foraging success has led to improved breeding success, and the albatrosses have increased by about 1 kg in body mass. It seems as if we here have a positive effect related to the ongoing climate change, but the scientists mention that the predicted scenario of wind change will come to a deterioration further down the trail, so the observed effects may be temporary. It is very nice, though, to see a study reporting an association between climate change and flight speed.

13 January 2012

Span efficiency of desert locusts

In a new paper, AFL-postdoc Per Henningsson, now working in the flight group at Oxford University, and Richard Bomphry have published a paper about "Time-varying span efficiency through the wingbeat of desert locusts" in the journal Interface. They use time-resolved PIV to work out the span efficiency, which is something that we have tried also in Lund. In a previous paper Richard Bomphrey had estimated that span-efficiency is 0.89 at mid-downstroke in the locust. The Oxford Group uses a slightly different calculation method that is customary in Lund, and so we will read this paper for our next lab meeting. The question is how much the difference in method matters to the final result, if it matters at all. It is nice to see the spread of PIV in the animal flight research community, and there are certainly still lots of research needed to be done. The answer, by the way, was 0.79.

05 January 2012

New paper about aerodynamics in slow-flying flycatcher

Just of the press from the Journal of the Royal Society Interface is a paper about pied flycatcher aerodynamics, by aouthors Florian Muijres, Melissa Bowlin, Christoffer Johansson and Anders Hedenström. Stereo flow-visualization was used to study the wake vortices shed off the wings of flycatchers as they flew slowly in the wind tunnel. The results sow that the aerodynamic force is mainly from the downstroke, resulting in a closed vortex loop. The results also show that the tail is involved in deflecting the downwash, resulting in an aerodynamic efficiency comparable to that of cruising flight. During the upstroke the wings generate no significant forces, but the body-tail configuration does to some degree, and so the upstroke phase of slow flight is not completely uninteresting from an aerodynamics viewpoint.

04 January 2012

Old and New Activities within Animal Flight Lab

First of all, a happy new year to AFL members and followers. At the transition between years one usually contemplates what has happened during the past year, and what will happen in the year to come, in the present case 2012. Last year, 2011, was a really productive year in the AFL, with Florian Muijres dissertation in April being a local peak. For the occasion Tom Daniel visited as opponent and we all had a great time. Now Florian and family has already arrived in Seattle, where Florian will make a postdoc with Michael Dickinson. We wish them the best of luck and look forward to get regular progress reports. During the autumn, postdoc Sophia Engel, Germany, left after a 2-year period here. Master student Gide Koekkoek, The Netherlands, finished his project on the bat flapper before the summer, and just after Christmas the corrected proofs of a paper was sent back to the journal. Another master student was Naid Mubalegh, France, who did a project on zebra finch flight during the spring. Here in Lund, we welcome Jonas Håkansson as a new PhD student. Last year we received an infrastructure grant that we are currently trying to spend, and hopefully the new equipment will serve us well in the wind tunnel. Finally, a reading tip in the form of a JEB paper about immune function decrease immediately after endurance flights in starlings. The picture is from our pre-christmas lab celebrations, with the hope we get reasons to celebrate many more times during 2012!