How flight feathers stick together to form a continuous morphing wing

Laura Y. Matloff, Eric Chang, Teresa J. Feo, Lindsie Jeffries, Amanda K. Stowers, Cole Thomson, David Lentink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Variable feather overlap enables birds to morph their wings, unlike aircraft. They accomplish this feat by means of elastic compliance of connective tissue, which passively redistributes the overlapping flight feathers when the skeleton moves to morph the wing planform. Distinctive microstructures form “directional Velcro,” such that when adjacent feathers slide apart during extension, thousands of lobate cilia on the underlapping feathers lock probabilistically with hooked rami of overlapping feathers to prevent gaps. These structures unlock automatically during flexion. Using a feathered biohybrid aerial robot, we demonstrate how both passive mechanisms make morphing wings robust to turbulence. We found that the hooked microstructures fasten feathers across bird species except silent fliers, whose feathers also lack the associated Velcro-like noise. These findings could inspire innovative directional fasteners and morphing aircraft.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-297
Number of pages5
JournalScience
Volume367
Issue number6475
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17-Jan-2020
Externally publishedYes

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