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J Exp Biol. 2017 Oct 15;220(Pt 20):3649-3656. doi: 10.1242/jeb.153494. Epub 2017 Aug 9.

Asymmetry costs: effects of wing damage on hovering flight performance in the hawkmoth Manduca sexta.

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Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA


Flight performance is fundamental to the fitness of flying organisms. Whilst airborne, flying organisms face unavoidable wing wear and wing area loss. Many studies have tried to quantify the consequences of wing area loss to flight performance with varied results, suggesting that not all types of damage are equal and different species may have different means to compensate for some forms of wing damage with little to no cost. Here, we investigated the cost of control during hovering flight with damaged wings, specifically wings with asymmetric and symmetric reductions in area, by measuring maximum load lifting capacity and the metabolic power of hovering flight in hawkmoths (Manduca sexta). We found that while asymmetric and symmetric reductions are both costly in terms of maximum load lifting and hovering efficiency, asymmetric reductions are approximately twice as costly in terms of wing area lost. The moths also did not modulate flapping frequency and amplitude as predicted by a hovering flight model, suggesting that the ability to do so, possibly tied to asynchronous versus synchronous flight muscles, underlies the varied responses found in different wing clipping experiments.


Flight control; Metabolism; Respirometry; Stability; Wing wear

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