Meeting Abstract

S3-1.8  Friday, Jan. 4  Aeromechanics in the Aerosphere: Where Physics meets Flight Biology in Aeroecology SWARTZ, SM*; WILLIS, DJ; BOWLIN, MS; BREUER, KS; Brown Univ; MIT; Univ of Montana; Brown Univ

Analysis of animal flight is typically conducted under conditions vastly different from those experienced by free-ranging organisms. Integrating lab analysis of animal flight with improved understanding of fluid dynamics in natural environments promises to advance our understanding how animals behave in the aerosphere. To accomplish this integration, we suggest that understanding flow characteristics of distinct aerial environments will be a critical first step toward understanding the ecology of animals in the aerosphere. All flying organisms must move through aerial microenvironments in which air is rarely if ever completely still. We can expect natural air streams to be characterized by a gusts and vortices of a variety of sizes, intensities, and orientations, which in turn will likely influence many aspects of an animal's behavior in the aerosphere. Documenting daily and seasonal variation in a locality's predominant airflow patterns will form a crucial part of understanding and interpreting the distribution and abundance of species that use the aerosphere. This paradigm will require careful attention to the relevant scales at which to quantify flow characteristics, which are certain to affect animals of different sizes. Moreover, new attention should be given to how organisms influence aerodynamic environments of one another. Although the importance of such effects will vary tremendously among taxa, we can expect that new understanding will arise by extending this idea beyond its traditional focus on flight formations. All flying, and even gliding, animals create wakes, whose spatial and temporal features depend on characteristic body size, wing form, and wing and net forward velocity. A combination of field- and laboratory-based research will be needed to delineate those conditions under which flight mechanics and energetics are influenced by flows created by other animals.