Scientists Pinpoint How A Flamingo Balances On One Leg

Scientists have now shown that this position requires roughly no flesh activity from a flamingo.


Most anyone who has encountered a flamingo has substantially been tender by a signature ability to change on a singular long, spindly leg for remarkably prolonged durations of time.

But actually, scientists have now shown that what appears to be a attainment requires roughly no flesh activity from a bird.

In fact, they found even a dead flamingo’s body will naturally tumble into a fast one-leg change if positioned vertically. That investigate was recently published in Biology Letters.

Until now there have been dual simple schools of suspicion about why a flamingo stands on one leg, Lena Ting, a biomedical operative during Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology, tells The Two-Way.

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Some scientists have suggested it was a approach for a bird to preserve feverishness that would have been mislaid if that feet had been in a cold water. Others suspicion it was a approach to revoke flesh fatigue, vouchsafing one leg rest while a other did a work.

But for muscles to get fatigued, a viewpoint contingency indeed be overpowering for a bird.

Nobody had ever tested either a flamingo’s iconic one-legged viewpoint compulsory any tangible flesh bid — until now.

Ting and co-author Young-Hui Chang from a Georgia Institute of Technology headed to Zoo Atlanta, where they tested 8 youthful Chilean flamingos regulating a device called a force plate. She compares a appurtenance to a Wii change house or a high-tech lavatory scale – it “can magnitude a tiny motions of a physique when we stand.”

The researchers tested a movements of 8 youthful flamingos during Zoo Atlanta.

Rob Felt

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Rob Felt

The researchers tested a movements of 8 youthful flamingos during Zoo Atlanta.

Rob Felt

They available a tiny volume of moving suit when a animals were awake. But afterwards something startling happened – when an animal dozed off, a moving forsaken off dramatically.

“And that’s a conflicting of what we would design for we or me — if we was station on one leg and afterwards sealed my eyes, typically we would see a good boost in a volume of physique lean and customarily that formula in people carrying to put their feet down,” she says.

It suggests that while watchful and active, a bird’s moving could be editing for other movements, eventually settling into a position while defunct that requires small to no flesh activity.

That was put to a exam in an examination with a flamingo cadaver, that of march has no flesh activity since it is not living.

First, a researchers attempted utilizing a cadaver’s corner in hunt of a locking resource that could explain a stability, she says. But a corner changed really loosely and did not lock.

The pivotal impulse happened when they rotated a bird into a station position: “We hold onto a ankle … and we incited it vertically, and afterwards all of a conspicuous it only collapsed right into a position that we see when they’re station on one leg.”

This video shows a conspicuous fortitude of a cadaver, even when it is pushed and pulled in opposite directions. (A warning to a supportive viewer: It is a video of a passed flamingo, yet a scientists contend a animal was euthanized for other reasons and was not spoiled for a study.)

This suggests that a reason for a animal’s fortitude is automatic and is indeed aided by gravity. “What we showed is that when they go to nap their bodies can arrange of strap brazen due to gravity, and afterwards a whole thing only collapses and becomes really stable,” Ting says.

The mechanics behind a flamingo’s leg are a bit counterintuitive. The flamingo indeed has an top leg bone that is positioned horizontally, dark among a feathers. A knee connects that bone to a long, slim partial that it stands on. And a knobby bit in a core of that straight apportionment is indeed a bird’s ankle.

When a flamingo rises a leg, a physique folds forward, so a core of sobriety is pulling down on a leg from a front of a physique — ideally balancing it.

A blueprint of a prong viewpoint and anatomy of a sleeping flamingo.

Biology Letters

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Biology Letters

In fact, says Ting, “our investigate also suggests that it might need reduction bid for a flamingos to mount on one leg than on two.” The bird was not means to say this kind of pacifist balancing on dual legs; as Ting explained, when a leg unfolded a corner “sort of collapsed” from a some-more fast position offset on one leg.

This investigate is not unsuitable with a thought that flamingos mount on one leg to revoke feverishness loss, generally if a bird doesn’t need to spend most appetite to do so.

But Ting says it might be even easier than that: They might only change on one leg since it’s easier for them than any other way.

It’s value observant that lots of other birds change on one leg too, such as timber ducks and storks. Ting says this could be a “more ubiquitous resource that many birds use.”