(The Gist of Science Reporter) Fliers Without Feathers
Fliers Without Feathers
FLIGHT is an amazing accomplishment that evolved first in the insects and was
observed subsequently up to the mammalian class. However, the word ‘flying’
brings to mind pictures of birds only. But there are many other flyers other
than birds in the animal kingdom who have mastered the art of being airborne.
Different body structure and peculiar organs contribute to the aerodynamic
stability of these organisms. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Gliding ant: Gliding ants (Cephalotes atrautus) are arboreal ants
of several different genera that are able to control the direction of descent
while falling from a tree. They measure up to one centimeter long. While gliding
they hold their legs elevated and outstretched above the main body, and their
bulbous posterior body segment is fixed slightly below the body axis. This
configuration is aerodynamically stable and creates a force that pushes the ant
backwards in a controlled glide. They can make 180 degree turns in the mid-air.
2. Flying squid: In the Flying squid (Todarodes pacificus), commonly
called Japanese flying squid, the mantle encloses the visceral mass of the
squid, and has two enlarged lateral fins. The squid has eight arms and two
tentacles with suction cups along the backs. In between the arms sits the mouth,
inside the mouth a rasping organ called radula is present. Squids have ink sacs,
which they use as a defence mechanism against predators.
3. Flying gurnard: Flying gurnards have pectoral fins that help them
to fly. While flying their pectoral fins span 15 cm spread full, and they are
airborne for about 2 seconds only. But they seem to be gliding in a controlled
4. Flying fish: There are two types of herring-like flying fishes
namely the two-winged and the four-winged flying fishes. Two-winged flying
fishes only have enlarged pectoral fins, and in four winged flying fishes both
the pelvic and pectoral fins are enlarged, making two pairs of wings measuring
30 cm and 40 cm in length respectively. When they leave water for the air, sea
birds such as frigates, albatrosses, and gulls are liable to attack. Its body
lifts above the surface, with the lower lobe of its tail fin moving in a
5. Flying mobula: They have triangular pectoral fins, horn-shaped
cephalic fins and a large forward facing mouth. They can attain a disc width up
to 5.2 m and can probably weigh over a ton. Mobula rays can reach heights of
more than two metres and remain airborne for several seconds, then land with a
loud bang with their belly and flop back into the sea. The higher they leap, the
bigger is the bang.
6. Flying frog: Flying frogs include members of three different genera
such as Ecnomiohyla, Polypedates and Rhacophorus. Alfred Russel Wallace gave the
earliest report of the flying frog. The species he observed was described as
Wallace’s flying frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus). These are characterised by
enlarged hands and feet, full webbing between all fingers and toes, lateral skin
flaps on the arms and legs, and reduced weight per snout-vent length.
7. Flying lacertids: In flying lacertids the head and body are very
depressed with frontoparietal and occipital scales all fused into shields with a
depressed tails. Their bones are packed with air spaces, flat body and tail,
fused fingers and their low body mass makes them capable of gliding up to 30 m
8. Flying gecko: Flying gecko (Ptychozoon) is a genus of arboreal
geckos endemic to Southeast Asia. They are characterised by cryptic coloration
and elaborated webs surrounding the neck, limbs, trunk and tail.
9. Flying lizard: In the Flying lizard ribs are connected with
membranes and extended to create wing-like structures called ‘patagia’. Hind
limbs are flattened with a flap on the neck which serves as a horizontal
10. Flying snake: There are five recognised species of flying snakes:
(i) Ornate flying snake (Chrysopelea ornata), (ii) Paradise tree snake (Chrysopelea
paradisi), (iii) Banded flying snake (Chrysopelea pelias), (iv) Srilankan flying
snake (Chrysopelea taprobanica) and (v) Moluccan flying snake (Chrysopelea
rhabadopleura). They use their aerobatics to escape predators, to move from tree
to tree without having to descend to the forest floor and for hunting preys. To
prepare for take-off, a flying snake slithers to the end of a branch and dangles
in a J-shape. It then propels itself from the branch with the lower half of its
body, forms an S quickly and flattens its body twice its normal width. By
undulating back and forth the snake can make turns.
11. Flying phalanger: In the Flying phalanger the gliding membrane is
narrow, fringed with long hairs and stretches from the forelimbs to the hind
limbs. In greater glider the patagium is a broader web of furred skin stretching
from the fifth toe on the forefoot to the ankle of the hind leg.
12. Flying lemur: Flying lemur has a membrane of skin from the sides
of the chin which continues into a broad web down on either side of the body,
taking in the forearm with all the fingers and the hind legs and toes and going
right up to the tip of the tail.
13. Flying squirrel: There are 37 species of Flying squirrels of which
the largest is the giant flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) of Asia, and the
smallest is the pygmy flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus). They have a
web-furred skin on either side of the body extending from the foreleg to the
hind leg and ending on the tail. Before becoming airborne, a flying squirrel
first leans its head to one side and then the other side followed by up-down
movement which enables it to judge the distance it must need to travel to reach
its landing spot.
14. Flying fox: Bats of the genus Pteropus belonging to order
Chiroptera are the largest bats in the world. They are commonly known as fruit
bats or Flying foxes. The genus includes 60 species of Flying foxes. Most common
are (i) Black flying fox (Pteropus alecto), (ii) Livingstone’s fruit bat (Pteropus
livingstonii), (iii) Mariana flying fox (Pteropus mariannus), (iv) Grey headed
flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) and (V) Large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus).
As the name suggests, the head resembles that of a small fox because of the
small ears and large eyes.
SCIENCE and technology policies play an important role in shaping a country’s
research and development. India has had a few science and technology policies
since independence that have shaped science and technology in the country. The
latest policy in place is the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy of 2013.
Devising science, technology and innovation policies requires considerable
inputs and envisioning future needs so that such evidence-based policies can
foster scientific research, accelerate technological developments and create
innovative products and processes.
In View of the need for optimizing communication and encompassing information
research when crafting science, technology and information policies, the CSIR-National
Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (CSIR-NISCAIR),
organised a national workshop on “Science, Technology & Innovation Policy:
Optimising Communication & Information Research” during 23-25 January 2018 at
the NASC Complex, New Delhi in collaboration with the Department of Science and
Technology, Government of India. About 100 participants including scholars,
researchers, scientists, practitioners, policy makers and students from all
parts of the country participated in the workshop.
Dr. Neeraj Sharma, Head and Advisor, Policy Research, Department of Science
and Technology who was Guest of Honour, highlighted the importance of data and
evidences in devising STI policies. Dr. H. Purushotham, Chairman and Managing
Director, National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) said that suitable
communication strategies are vital to make STI policies more effective. He also
stressed on the important role of social media as a communication platform.
Chairing the inaugural session Dr. R.S Sangwan, Director, Academy of
Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR) stated that needs of the common man
should be kept in mind the while preparing policies and inculcating scientific
temper in the society should be integrated into policy initiatives.
Courtesy: Science Reporter