LONDON, July 1 (UPI) — Even though ostriches can’t fly, how they use their wings when running offers clues to how two-legged dinosaurs may have moved, European researchers say.
Ostriches use their wings as sophisticated air rudders and braking aids, and similar techniques may have been used by their bi-pedal, or two-legged, dinosaur ancestors, Britain’s Society for Experimental Biology announced Wednesday.
Some of the largest and fastest-moving dinosaurs, such as the 25-foot-long Gigantoraptor, may have used feathered forelimbs for increased stability and maneuverability when moving at speed, a study suggests.
Like ostriches, they may have used them to efficiently channel aerodynamic forces during rapid braking, turning and zigzag maneuvers.
Nina Schaller, who works with the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt and the University of Antwerp, hand-raised ostriches to be studied in a natural, controlled environment that allowed them free space to run.
“Ostriches can be very dangerous and can react with violent (even lethal) kicks and so it was crucial that we shared a deep level of mutual trust,” she explained.
Similar use of wings as running aids have been observed in other flightless birds, Schaller says.
“South American rheas execute rapid zigzagging as a means of escape,” she says, “and use their wings to maintain balance during these agile maneuvers.”
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.