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Flamingos Standing on One Leg Are Saving Energy: Study

Image: Flamingos Standing on One Leg Are Saving Energy: Study

Standing on one leg is how flamingos conserve energy, a study found. (Notweston/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Thursday, 25 May 2017 05:37 AM

Flamingos standing on one leg are doing it to save energy, according to U.S.-based researchers who detailed their study in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters on Wednesday.

It has long been a mystery why flamingos use one leg to stand and sleep. The team led by Young-Hui Chang of Georgia Tech and Lena H. Ting of Emory University found flamingos employ no active muscular effort when they are on one leg, allowing them to expending less energy, stated the broadcaster.

"Our results suggest that muscle activity could be lower in a one-legged than in a two-legged standing posture due to the engagement of a unidirectional, passive, gravitational stay apparatus, and the tightly localized point of force application under the TMP (tarsometatarsophalangeal) joint during quiescent one-legged standing," the study's results stated.

"Although passive digital locks have been found in distal segments of perching birds and hanging bats, this is the first demonstration, to our knowledge, of a passive, gravity-driven body weight support mechanism in the proximal joints of a bird," the study continued.

The flamingo researchers did several experiments with live and dead birds, finding that flamingo cadavers could be made to stand one-legged without any external support.

"If you look at the bird from the front, while they're standing on one leg, the foot is directly beneath the body which means that their leg is angled inward," Chang told BBC News. "That's the pose you have to strike in order to engage the stay mechanism."

Matthew Anderson, an experimental psychologist at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, who was not involve in the flamingo study, told the BBC it was a "significant step forward" but failed to ask an important question.

"They begin to answer the question of how flamingos are able to rest on one leg," Anderson said. "Importantly, these authors do not examine when and where flamingos actually utilize the behavior in question, and thus this paper does not really address the issue of why flamingos rest while on one leg."

Anderson told BBC News that he found in his own study that flamingos may stand on one leg to conserve heat.

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Flamingos standing on one leg are doing it to save energy, according to U.S.-based researchers who detailed their study in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters on Wednesday.
flamingos, standing, one, leg, energy, study
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2017-37-25
Thursday, 25 May 2017 05:37 AM
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