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Colugos glide to save time, not energy
Date:7/27/2011

at you see is the leap and the landing when there is this sweeping acceleration, so it's easy to pick out their glides,' he says. Eventually, the trio converted each animal's acceleration traces into velocities as they scaled trees and glided and then they calculated the distances that the animals covered.

Analysing the glide trajectories, the team realised that the colugos only climb a relatively small height to achieve their lengthy shallow glides. 'The average was 8 m for an animal that is gliding 30󈞞m,' says Byrnes. But how much energy were they using to cover that distance?

Basing their calculations on the amount of energy used by small climbing primates close relatives of the colugo the trio calculated the energy used by a colugo ascending a tree to initiate a glide. Then they calculated the amount of energy that the animals would use if they had clambered through the canopy to cover the glide distance and were amazed to see that instead of saving energy, the colugos were using 1.5 times more energy. 'This was a surprise, as the dogma has always been that gliding is cheaper,' says Byrnes.

However, one thing was clear: gliding was faster. 'If you watch the animals move through the trees they move pretty slowly,' says Byrnes, 'But they can go 10 times as fast and cover long distances gliding so they can spend more time foraging,' he explains. Gliding could also protect colugos from dangerous predators and reduce the risks of climbing on spindly branches, so it could be more of a long-term benefit than simply saving energy


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-078-763-44333
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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