Saturday, December 31, 2016

[Herpetology • 2017] How Draco Lizards Fly: A Novel Type of Wing in Animals

 formation of the composite wing during the initial phases of the gliding flight of Draco dussumieri seen from the front (left) and from below (right; corresponding photos of the same phases). The lizard jumps from the tree, reorients the body dorsoventrally and starts to spread the anterior ribs; the extended arms reach behind the back (top). The anterior ribs are further spread by the trunk musculature; the hands grasp the leading edge of the patagium and pull it forward (middle). The patagium is fully extended and controlled by the forelimbs; the glide path becomes more horizontal (bottom). White arrows indicate the positions of the hands.
Dehling, 2016.   DOI: 10.1101/086496 


Flying lizards of the genus Draco are famous for their gliding ability, using an aerofoil formed by winglike patagial membranes and supported by elongated thoracic ribs. It has remained unknown, however, how the lizards manoeuvre during flight. Here, I show that the patagium is deliberately grasped and controlled by the forelimbs while airborne. This type of composite wing is unique inasmuch as the lift-generating and the controlling units are formed independently by different parts of the body and are connected to each other only for the duration of the flight. The major advantage for the lizards is that the forelimbs keep their entire movement range and functionality for climbing and running when they are not used as the controlling unit of the wing. These findings not only shed a new light on the flight of Draco lizards but also have implications for the interpretation of gliding performance in fossil species.

  KEYWORDS: Draco, flying lizard, gliding flight, patagium

J Maximilian Dehling. 2016. How Lizards Fly: A Novel Type of Wing in Animals.
 BioRxiv. DOI: 10.1101/086496 

Dragon lizards fly by grabbing their fold-up wings with ‘hands’