Send to

Choose Destination
Z Morphol Anthropol. 1991;78(3):373-85.

They seem to glide. Are there aerodynamic effects in leaping prosimian primates?

Author information

Abt. Funktionelle Morphologie, Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum.


Leaping primates often assume a horizontal position while airborne. When the limbs are spread out in such maneuvers, skin folds between the upper limbs and the trunk are exposed. This has led to the assumption that the animals make use of aerodynamic forces for either gliding, steering, or braking before the landing. In terms of physics, aerodynamic lift or aerodynamic drag can cause the described effects. As coefficients of lift and drag are unknown for flying primates, we have calculated those values that give the animals either a 5% gain or loss in leaping distance. These turn out to be in the range of values for cylinder-shaped "blunt" (unstreamlined) bodies. A significant influence of aerodynamic forces on the flight path can therefore be assumed. The smaller-bodied species (e.g., galagos) are more strongly influenced by their great surface areas. Although frontal areas scale positively allometrically with respect to body mass, air speed gains importance in the larger-bodied species (e.g., sifakas). They cover absolutely greater distances and have the higher takeoff velocities. The actual importance of lift and drag cannot be derived from our theoretical calculations but must be determined experimentally.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center