Date Published:Mar 17
Individuals traversing challenging obstacles are faced with a decision: they can adopt traversal strategies that minimally disrupt their normal locomotion patterns or they can adopt strategies that substantially alter their gait, conferring new advantages and disadvantages. We flew pigeons (Columba livia) through an array of vertical obstacles in a flight arena, presenting them with this choice. The pigeons selected either a strategy involving only a slight pause in the normal wing beat cycle, or a wings-folded posture granting reduced efficiency but greater stability should a misjudgment lead to collision. The more stable but less efficient flight strategy was not used to traverse easy obstacles with wide gaps for passage but came to dominate the postures used as obstacle challenge increased with narrower gaps and there was a greater chance of a collision. These results indicate that birds weigh potential obstacle negotiation strategies and estimate task difficulty during locomotor pattern selection.
Williams, C DavidBiewener, Andrew Aeng2015/03/04 06:00Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Mar 17;112(11):3392-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1407298112. Epub 2015 Mar 2.