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J Morphol. 2006 Mar;267(3):341-6.

Scaling of body frontal area and body width in birds.

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Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, L.C. Miall Building, Faculty of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


By analyzing a homogenous dataset we show, in contradiction to a previous study, that the scaling of body frontal area (S(b)) with body mass (m(b)) does not differ between passerine and nonpasserine birds. It is likely that comparison of data collected from live passerines with data collected from frozen nonpasserines had led to the incorrect conclusion that the scaling of S(b) varied between the taxa. We suggest that body dimensions collected from frozen specimens, or specimens stored in alcohol, are not applicable to live birds, and that both the current equations presented in the literature for predicting S(b) from m(b) may lead to inaccurate estimates. Using data from preserved specimens, we found that S(b) scales isometrically with m(b) (S(b) proportional, variant m(b) (0.66)), and therefore we found no evidence for larger birds being more streamlined than smaller birds. S(b) scales with negative allometry against wingspan (b), however, and b scales with positive allometry against m(b), so larger birds have smaller S(b) relative to b. In addition, it appears that dorsoventral flattening of the body is a general characteristic of bird's bodies but that it is more pronounced in larger birds, suggesting perhaps a function in terms of increased lift during forward flight. It appears that bird's bodies obey the surface-to-area geometric scaling law, but bird body shape may vary in relation to aerodynamic function. We suggest that a large-scale study, simultaneously measuring S(b) and m(b) in live passerines and nonpasserines, is required to improve the predictive power of S(b) upon m(b) scaling equations, which play a key role in the estimation of mechanical power consumption in flight in birds. Furthermore, the relations between bird body shape and axial skeleton dimensions, with reference to aerodynamic adaptation, warrant further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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