wing of birds



wing of birds defined in 1930 year

wing of birds - Wing of birds;
wing of birds - We must enter into the matter of wing a little more closely - it is so important a feature of bird organisation. The wing, of course, although it performs so different a rĂ´le, is the exact equivalent of the fore limb of mammals. We can easily recognise precisely the same bones, though they are diminished in number, and often of a different form. It will be noticed that in each case we can distinguish the three bones forming the arm, and which are known as the humerus, the radius, and ulna. The rest of the limb in the bird is not quite so obviously like the hand of the mammal; but a little attention will show that it is constructed upon a perfectly similar plan. The flexible wrist of the mammal is made up of many small bones; the hand itself is made up of a larger series still, of which those nearest to the wrist are technically termed the metacarpals, and those which follow, the phalanges. In many mammals there are five fingers; but there are many which have less, and the extreme is reached in the horse, which has to put up with a single finger and small rudiments of two others. Now the bird is better off in the way of fingers than the horse, as it has three fairly well- developed fingers, or rather two well developed and one less perfect. The shortest finger corresponds to the thumb of our hand. It is more freely movable than the others. The metacarpal bones of the second and third fingers are firmly welded together, and are long; each finger (as will be seen from a look at fig.) has one or two phalanges, as the case may be. Now in mammals the end phalanx of each finger is tipped with a nail, or with a hoof. The powerful claws of the tiger, used for tearing, and the solid hoof of the ox or horse, upon which the creature walks, are one and the same thing. It might be supposed that the hand of the bird, which is not an organ of offence or meant to walk with, might be shorn of these appendages. But this is not the case: every bird has at least two nails (fig. 1), of a long and rather claw-like form when well developed, and sometimes three nails, that is, one to each of its fingers. It looks, therefore, very much as if the wing of the bird had been formed out of a limb that was once an organ for climbing or walking with. There is a curious bird, found in British Guiana, which is known as the Hoatzin (figs. 1, 3). In the very young nestlings of the hoatzin the claws of the fingers are so conspicuous that they are actually used by the callow chick to climb with, before the feathers of the wings have grown sufficiently to enable them to use their wings in the proper way in which a bird should; it has been said also, that other birds scramble about and use their claws when they are young. In the case of the hoatzin, it is stated that the thumb and the first finger can be brought together so as to lay hold definitely of an object. A very important thing to notice about the wing bones is that they are capable of but little movement upon each other. There are two hinges, one at the elbow, and the other at the wrist; but the radius and ulna cannot move round each other, as they can in our arms, and the fingers are fixed and rigid. This would be most unfortunate if the wing had to be used as a walking or climbing limb; but it is most useful in relation to the function which the wing has to perform - that of flight. The strength of the downward stroke would be enfeebled if the bones were in a limp condition and moved upon each other. They offer, too, a firm foothold for the thick quills of the big feathers of the wing. It has been mentioned that all the evidence at our disposal points to the view that the wing has become gradually moulded into an organ of flight, from a condition in which it played a different part. The earliest bird of which we have any record had wings which were much less perfect as flying organs than those of modern birds. It seems pretty plain that the bones in that antique bird were much less rigidly fixed together, and it is equally clear that the fingers were very much more loosely attached to one another. They were also more on an equality as regards size; the great disparity evident in fig. 4 is not to be seen in the Archaeopteryx. All this, of course, shows that the Archaeopteryx could not have possessed the ample pinion of its more vigorous descendants of to-day. The fossil Archaeopteryx looks a little like a crow would look after receiving at close quarters a charge of duck shot; but a closer examination will show that in reality all the bones are there, on one side at least. Out of the disjecta membra of the fossil numerous ' restorations ' have been put together, which are as diverse as the minds which imagined them. We cannot really say with certainty what were the precise relations of the hand to the feathers. It seems most probable that the hand of this ' mediaeval ' bird still retained the ordinary functions of a hand; that it served its possessor to lay hold of convenient branches, from which it fluttered feebly to others. One bold speculator has insisted upon the probability that the Archaeopteryx had the requisite five fingers of the presumed ancestral type; but there are no traces of them, except in so far as the lie of the feathers enables a hint to be gathered. Boring operations, or at least prospecting in the interior of the stony slab on which the fossil lies, might reveal some additional fingers; but the operation would be fraught with too obvious perils to a nearly unique object. There are a good many birds which do not, and some which cannot, fly. To the first category belong such birds as the domestic ducks and fowls, and some of the rails. These birds, when put to it - when chased by a dog, for example - can often fly; but as a rule they do not, or at most only flutter along. The Ostrich tribe and a few other birds have totally lost the power of flight. But though this is the case, the bony structure of the hand remains the same in the Ostrich and in the American Rhea; in the Cassowary, however, and the Apteryx of New Zealand, the fingers are reduced to one. The last stage in the atrophy of the organ of flight is seen in the giant and extinct birds of New Zealand, the Moa or Dinornis, in which no trace of a wing has been so far discovered. But in some of these birds in which the wing is reduced in size, or so simplified in structure that it can no longer serve its legitimate purpose, it is made use of for other purposes. When the Ostrich skims along the surface of the sandy deserts where it is often found, it holds out both wings, which are compared to sails; they possibly serve rather as the pole of the tight-rope walker, to preserve the balance of the bird when hurrying along at full speed. In the Secretary Vulture of Africa the wings can be used for flying, but they are also used as weapons wherewith to combat the poisonous snakes upon which the bird so usefully feeds. It strikes down the venomous serpent when the latter is attempting to strike the bird. The Chauna of South America has strong spurs upon its wings, which are used for fighting as well as for flying. But the most curious use to which wings are put is afforded by the Penguin. If the reader has never seen the ' diving birds ' fed at the Zoological Gardens, let him go there on the first opportunity, and see how rapidly and gracefully the Penguin ' flies ' under water by the flapping of its wings. They are shorter than those of most birds, and the feathers have become flattened and almost scale-like, so as to offer no resistance to the water; at the same time the bones of the wing are flattened, so that a broad surface is provided, which of course acts like an oar. With this oar-like wing the Penguin can outswim a small fish.

pictures for wing of birds

wing of archaeopteryx wing of archaeopteryx. >>>>

wing of nestling opisthocomus wing of nestling opisthocomus. >>>>

wing of young fowl wing of young fowl. >>>>

wing of adult opisthocomus wing of adult opisthocomus. >>>>

wing of half-grown ostrich wing of half-grown ostrich. >>>>


near wing of birds in Knolik


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