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J Exp Biol. 1998 Sep;201 (Pt 18):2591-9.

Air transmissivity of feathers

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  • 1FG Bionik and Evolutionstechnik, Technische Universitat Berlin, Ackerstrasse 71-76 (ACK 1), Germany.


The flight feathers and their coverts of a European kestrel Falco tinnunculus have been tested for their air transmissivity. The transmissivity was measured in both directions, i.e. from ventral to dorsal and vice versa; the mean difference between the two directions was less than 10 %. However, the transmissivity of the inner versus outer vanes of the remiges and coverts differed significantly, with the outer vanes being more transmissive than the inner vanes. A functional interpretation of the different transmissivities of the inner and outer vanes is given, and we propose that its significance lies in the formation of a smooth, continuous wing surface. The individual feathers are pushed firmly towards one another as a result of the different transmissivities, which cause a pressure gradient to build up from the less-transmissive inner vane towards the overlying, more-transmissive outer vane of the adjacent feather. In another test series, the transmissivity of the flight and covert feathers of 27 species was measured; the differences found between species were small.

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