How bird feathers stick together, and undo, discovered by scientists and described in Telegraph (UK) 16 January 2020 and Science 17 January2020, doi: 10.1126/science.aaz3358.
As birds fly their wings morph into different shapes, with their wing feathers spreading out evenly to maintain a continuous solid surface. Scientists noticed that the wing feathers of pigeons slide smoothly over one another, but then stop before the feathers become separated. They found that the even spread resulted from built-in elasticity in the fibrous tissue anchoring the feathers, but this would not hold the feathers together to form a continuous surface.
They then used an electron microscope to study regions where wing feathers overlapped, and found the feathers has microscopic looped hairs on the bottom surface of overlapping feathers, and the top surface of underlapping feather. Like Velcro, these interlocked when the wing was extended and the feathers spread out, and unlocked when the wing was flexed (bent) and the feathers slide back over one another. The researchers studied the wings of a number of bird species of different sizes, and found the same locking and unlocking structure, so it seems to work for large and small birds.
Another intriguing finding was that the unlocking process is noisy, so that flying birds can be heard as they flex and extend their wings during flight, but some birds, like barn owls, have distinctively silent flight. After studying the microscopic structure of barn owl feathers, they found soft velvety fibres that did not lock and unlock, instead of the looped Velcro-type fibres found on other bird wings. The scientists concluded that these silent flying birds could cope without the feather fastening as they flew at night in conditions with less turbulence.
By scanning the whole wing structure of pigeons and working out the mechanics of wing movement the scientist found the birds used their wrists and finger bones to finely control feather placement and wing span.
To confirm the combination of elastic spreading and feather locking enabled the birds to fly well in turbulent air, the scientists built a flying robot with wings made from pigeon wing feathers. When the robot was modified so the feathers did not spread evenly and could not lock into a continuous surface, the robot was harder to control in turbulent air. The researchers’ summary included: “These findings could inspire innovative directional fasteners and morphing aircraft.”
The research team ended their report with: “The evolution of fastening barbules thus represents an important functional innovation in the transition from feathered dinosaurs to modern birds, which fossils may shed light on.”
Editorial Comment: The schizophrenic minds of evolutionists are amazing. At one time these scientists are claiming their findings will help engineers design and build better flying machines, but they claim that the efficient flying machines, called birds, that already exist and fly better than their robot, evolved by chance. The more we study how birds fly, the more intricate design we find, and the less excuse scientists have for ignoring the Creator. Stop being so stupid all you evolutionists!
News vol. 20, No. 2
12 February 2020
Creation Research Australia