Flying and gliding animals
Overview
 
A number of animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s have evolved
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 aerial locomotion, either by powered flight
Powered flight
Powered flight is flight achieved using onboard power to generate propulsive thrust and/or lift. Birds and insects use wings, in a variety of ways, to achieve powered flight. Man has developed several forms of powered aircraft. The term powered flight is also sometimes used excluding the natural...

 or by gliding
Gliding (flight)
Gliding flight is heavier-than-air flight without the use of thrust. It is employed by gliding animals and by aircraft such as gliders. The most common human application of gliding flight is in sport and recreation using aircraft designed for this purpose...

. Flying and gliding animals have evolved separately many times, without any single ancestor. Flight
Flight
Flight is the process by which an object moves either through an atmosphere or beyond it by generating lift or propulsive thrust, or aerostatically using buoyancy, or by simple ballistic movement....

 has evolved at least four times, in the insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s, pterosaur
Pterosaur
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

s, bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s, and bat
Bat
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

s. Gliding has evolved on many more occasions. Usually the development is to aid canopy animals in getting from tree to tree, although there are other possibilities. Gliding, in particular, has evolved among rainforest
Rainforest
Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm...

 animals, especially in the rainforests in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 (most especially Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

) where the tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s are tall and widely spaced.
  • Falling
    Free fall
    Free fall is any motion of a body where gravity is the only force acting upon it, at least initially. These conditions produce an inertial trajectory so long as gravity remains the only force. Since this definition does not specify velocity, it also applies to objects initially moving upward...

    : Decreasing altitude under the force of gravity, using no adaptations to increase drag
    Drag (physics)
    In fluid dynamics, drag refers to forces which act on a solid object in the direction of the relative fluid flow velocity...

     or provide lift
    Lift (force)
    A fluid flowing past the surface of a body exerts a surface force on it. Lift is the component of this force that is perpendicular to the oncoming flow direction. It contrasts with the drag force, which is the component of the surface force parallel to the flow direction...

    .
  • Parachuting
    Parachuting
    Parachuting, also known as skydiving, is the action of exiting an aircraft and returning to earth with the aid of a parachute. It may or may not involve a certain amount of free-fall, a time during which the parachute has not been deployed and the body gradually accelerates to terminal...

    : Defined as falling at greater than 45 degrees from the horizontal
    Horizontal plane
    In geometry, physics, astronomy, geography, and related sciences, a plane is said to be horizontal at a given point if it is perpendicular to the gradient of the gravity field at that point— in other words, if apparent gravity makes a plumb bob hang perpendicular to the plane at that point.In...

     with adaptations to increase drag forces.
Encyclopedia
A number of animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s have evolved
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 aerial locomotion, either by powered flight
Powered flight
Powered flight is flight achieved using onboard power to generate propulsive thrust and/or lift. Birds and insects use wings, in a variety of ways, to achieve powered flight. Man has developed several forms of powered aircraft. The term powered flight is also sometimes used excluding the natural...

 or by gliding
Gliding (flight)
Gliding flight is heavier-than-air flight without the use of thrust. It is employed by gliding animals and by aircraft such as gliders. The most common human application of gliding flight is in sport and recreation using aircraft designed for this purpose...

. Flying and gliding animals have evolved separately many times, without any single ancestor. Flight
Flight
Flight is the process by which an object moves either through an atmosphere or beyond it by generating lift or propulsive thrust, or aerostatically using buoyancy, or by simple ballistic movement....

 has evolved at least four times, in the insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s, pterosaur
Pterosaur
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

s, bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s, and bat
Bat
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

s. Gliding has evolved on many more occasions. Usually the development is to aid canopy animals in getting from tree to tree, although there are other possibilities. Gliding, in particular, has evolved among rainforest
Rainforest
Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm...

 animals, especially in the rainforests in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 (most especially Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

) where the tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s are tall and widely spaced.

Types of aerial locomotion

  • Falling
    Free fall
    Free fall is any motion of a body where gravity is the only force acting upon it, at least initially. These conditions produce an inertial trajectory so long as gravity remains the only force. Since this definition does not specify velocity, it also applies to objects initially moving upward...

    : Decreasing altitude under the force of gravity, using no adaptations to increase drag
    Drag (physics)
    In fluid dynamics, drag refers to forces which act on a solid object in the direction of the relative fluid flow velocity...

     or provide lift
    Lift (force)
    A fluid flowing past the surface of a body exerts a surface force on it. Lift is the component of this force that is perpendicular to the oncoming flow direction. It contrasts with the drag force, which is the component of the surface force parallel to the flow direction...

    .
  • Parachuting
    Parachuting
    Parachuting, also known as skydiving, is the action of exiting an aircraft and returning to earth with the aid of a parachute. It may or may not involve a certain amount of free-fall, a time during which the parachute has not been deployed and the body gradually accelerates to terminal...

    : Defined as falling at greater than 45 degrees from the horizontal
    Horizontal plane
    In geometry, physics, astronomy, geography, and related sciences, a plane is said to be horizontal at a given point if it is perpendicular to the gradient of the gravity field at that point— in other words, if apparent gravity makes a plumb bob hang perpendicular to the plane at that point.In...

     with adaptations to increase drag forces. Very small animals may be carried up by the wind
    Wind
    Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

    .
  • Gliding flight
    Gliding (flight)
    Gliding flight is heavier-than-air flight without the use of thrust. It is employed by gliding animals and by aircraft such as gliders. The most common human application of gliding flight is in sport and recreation using aircraft designed for this purpose...

    : Defined as falling at less than 45 degrees from the horizontal. Lift caused by some kind of aerofoil
    Airfoil
    An airfoil or aerofoil is the shape of a wing or blade or sail as seen in cross-section....

     mechanism, allowing slowly falling directed horizontal movement. Streamlined to decrease drag forces to aid aerofoil. Often some maneuverability in air. Gliding animals have a lower aspect ratio
    Aspect ratio (wing)
    In aerodynamics, the aspect ratio of a wing is essentially the ratio of its length to its breadth . A high aspect ratio indicates long, narrow wings, whereas a low aspect ratio indicates short, stubby wings....

     (wing length/wing breadth) than flyers.
  • Flapping: The movement of wing
    Wing
    A wing is an appendage with a surface that produces lift for flight or propulsion through the atmosphere, or through another gaseous or liquid fluid...

    s to directly produce thrust. May ascend without the aid of the wind, as opposed to gliders and parachuters.
  • Soaring
    Lift (soaring)
    Gliding flight is heavier-than-air flight without the use of thrust. It is employed by gliding animals and by aircraft such as gliders. The most common human application of gliding flight is in sport and recreation using aircraft designed for this purpose...

    : essentially a form of gliding in rising or otherwise moving air that requires specific physiological and morphological adaptations that can sustain the animal aloft without flapping its wings. The rising air is due to thermals, ridge lift
    Ridge lift
    Ridge lift is created when a wind strikes an obstacle, usually a mountain ridge or cliff, that is large and steep enough to deflect the wind upward....

     or other meteorological features
    Lift (soaring)
    Gliding flight is heavier-than-air flight without the use of thrust. It is employed by gliding animals and by aircraft such as gliders. The most common human application of gliding flight is in sport and recreation using aircraft designed for this purpose...

    . Large wingspans are needed for efficient soaring.


These forms of aerial locomotion are not mutually exclusive and indeed many animals will employ two or more of the methods. Two other common forms of aerial locomotion for humans that are not employed in the rest of the animal kingdom are heli-propulsion
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

 and lighter-than-air
Aerostat
An aerostat is a craft that remains aloft primarily through the use of buoyant lighter than air gases, which impart lift to a vehicle with nearly the same overall density as air. Aerostats include free balloons, airships, and moored balloons...

 flight.

Ecology of aerial locomotion

Although only four groups of animals have evolved flight, all of the three extant groups are very successful, suggesting that flight is a very successful strategy once evolved. Bat
Bat
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

s, after rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

s, have the most species of any mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

ian order, about 20% of all mammalian species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

. Bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s have the most species of any class of terrestrial vertebrate
Vertebrate
Vertebrates are animals that are members of the subphylum Vertebrata . Vertebrates are the largest group of chordates, with currently about 58,000 species described. Vertebrates include the jawless fishes, bony fishes, sharks and rays, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds...

s. Finally insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s have more species than all other animal groups combined.

Flying animals may have evolved from gliding animals. However, gliding is not necessarily just an evolutionary route to flying and has some advantages of its own. Gliding is a very energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

-efficient way of travelling from tree to tree. An argument made is that many gliding animals eat low energy foods such as leaves and are restricted to gliding because of this, whereas flying animals eat more high energy foods such as fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

s, nectar, and insects. In contrast to flight, gliding has evolved independently many times (more than a dozen times among extant vertebrates), however these groups have not radiated nearly as much as have groups of flying animals.

One point of interest is the distribution of gliding animals. Many gliding animals are found in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, some in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, although there are no gliding vertebrates in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. However, many more animals in South America have prehensile tail
Prehensile tail
A prehensile tail is the tail of an animal that has adapted to be able to grasp and/or hold objects. Fully prehensile tails can be used to hold and manipulate objects, and in particular to aid arboreal creatures in finding and eating food in the trees...

s than in Africa and Southeast Asia. It has been argued that gliding animals dominate in Southeast Asia as the forests are less dense than in South America. In dense forest there is not room to glide, but a prehensile tail is very useful for moving from tree to tree. Also South American rainforests tend to have more lianas as there are fewer large animals to eat them compared to Africa and Asia; these lianas would aid climbers but obstruct gliders. Curiously, Australia contains many mammals with prehensile tails and also many mammals which can glide; in fact, all Australian mammalian gliders have tails that are prehensile to an extent.

Only a few animals are known to have specialised in soaring: the larger of the extinct pterosaur
Pterosaur
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

s, and some large birds. Powered flight is very energetically expensive for large animals, but for soaring their size is an advantage, as it allows them a low wing loading, that is a large wing areas relative to their weight, which maximizes lift. Soaring is very energetically efficient.

Biomechanics of aerial locomotion

The forms of aerial locomotion for which the biomechanics are most studied are bird flight
Bird flight
Flight is the main mode of locomotion used by most of the world's bird species. Flight assists birds while feeding, breeding and avoiding predators....

 and insect flight
Insect flight
Insects are the only group of invertebrates known to have evolved flight. Insects possess some remarkable flight characteristics and abilities, still far superior to attempts by humans to replicate their capabilities. Even our understanding of the aerodynamics of flexible, flapping wings and how...

. The UCMP exhibit on vertebrate flight contains a broad introduction to the biomechanics of flying and gliding vertebrates.
.

Flying/soaring

  • Largest. The largest known flying animal was formerly thought to be Pteranodon
    Pteranodon
    Pteranodon , from the Late Cretaceous geological period of North America in present day Kansas, Alabama, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota, was one of the largest pterosaur genera and had a maximum wingspan of over...

    , a pterosaur
    Pterosaur
    Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

     with a wingspan of up to 7.5 m. However, the more recently discovered azhdarchid pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus
    Quetzalcoatlus
    Quetzalcoatlus was a pterodactyloid pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous of North America , and one of the largest known flying animals of all time. It was a member of the Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks...

    is much larger, with estimates of the wingspan ranging from 9 m to 12 m. Some other recently discovered azhdarchid pterosaur species, such as Hatzegopteryx
    Hatzegopteryx
    Hatzegopteryx is a genus of azhdarchid pterosaur, known from incomplete remains found in Transylvania. The skull fragments, left humerus, and other fossilized remains indicate it was among the largest pterosaurs. The skeleton of Hatzegopteryx has been considered identical to the known remains of...

    , may have also wingspans of a similar size or even slightly larger. Although it is widely thought that Quetzalcoatlus reached the size limit of a flying animal, it should be noted that the same was once said of Pteranodon. The heaviest living flying animal is the great bustard
    Great Bustard
    The Great Bustard is in the bustard family, the only member of the genus Otis. It breeds in southern and central Europe, where it is the largest species of bird, and across temperate Asia...

     at 21 kg. The wandering albatross
    Wandering Albatross
    The Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross or White-winged Albatross, Diomedea exulans, is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. It was the first species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan...

     has the greatest wingspan of any living flying animal at 3.63 m (11 ft 11 in). Among living animals which fly over land, the Andean condor
    Andean Condor
    The Andean Condor is a species of South American bird in the New World vulture family Cathartidae and is the only member of the genus Vultur...

     and the marabou stork
    Marabou Stork
    The Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It breeds in Africa south of the Sahara, occurring in both wet and arid habitats, often near human habitation, especially waste tips...

     have the largest wingspan at 3.2 m. Studies have shown that it is physically possible for flying animals to reach 18 m (60 ft) wingspans, but there is no firm evidence that any flying animal, not even the azhdarchid pterosaurs, got that large.
  • Smallest. There is no real minimum size for getting airborne. Indeed, there are many bacteria floating in the atmosphere that constitute part of the aeroplankton
    Aeroplankton
    Aeroplankton is the term used to describe the tiny lifeforms which float and drift in the air, carried by the current of the wind; it is the atmospheric analogue to oceanic plankton....

    . However, to move about under one's own power and not be overly affected by the wind requires a certain amount of size. The smallest flying vertebrates are the bee hummingbird
    Bee Hummingbird
    The Bee Hummingbird or Zunzuncito is a species of hummingbird that is endemic to Cuba and Isla de la Juventud...

     and the bumblebee bat
    Bumblebee Bat
    Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat , also known as the bumblebee bat, is a vulnerable species of bat and the only extant member of the family Craseonycteridae. It occurs in western Thailand and southeast Burma, where it occupies limestone caves along rivers.Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat is the smallest species of bat...

    , both of which may weigh less than 2 g. They are thought to represent the lower size limit for endotherm flight.
  • Fastest. The fastest of all known flying animals is the peregrine falcon
    Peregrine Falcon
    The Peregrine Falcon , also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the Duck Hawk in North America, is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. A large, crow-sized falcon, it has a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and "moustache"...

    , which when diving has been recorded flying at 300 km/h or faster. The fastest animal in flapping flight might be the White-throated Needle-tailed Swift, at 170 km/h. In level flapping flight, a good contender for the fastest living animal recorded is the red-breasted merganser
    Red-breasted Merganser
    The Red-breasted Merganser is a diving duck.-Taxonomy:The Red-breasted Merganser was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work, Systema Naturae.-Description:...

     at 160 km/h (100 mi/h).
  • Slowest. Most flying animals need to travel forward at a minimum speed to stay aloft. However, some creatures can stay in the same spot, known as hovering, either by rapidly flapping the wings, as do hummingbird
    Hummingbird
    Hummingbirds are birds that comprise the family Trochilidae. They are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring in the 7.5–13 cm range. Indeed, the smallest extant bird species is a hummingbird, the 5-cm Bee Hummingbird. They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings...

    s, hoverflies
    Hoverfly
    Hoverflies, sometimes called flower flies or syrphid flies, make up the insect family Syrphidae. As their common name suggests, they are often seen hovering or nectaring at flowers; the adults of many species feed mainly on nectar and pollen, while the larvae eat a wide range of foods...

    , dragonflies
    Dragonfly
    A dragonfly is a winged insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera . It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body...

    , and some others, or carefully using thermals, as do some birds of prey. The slowest flying non-hovering bird recorded is the American woodcock
    American Woodcock
    The American Woodcock , sometimes colloquially referred to as the Timberdoodle, is a small chunky shorebird species found primarily in the eastern half of North America...

    , at 8 km/h. However, many insects probably fly much more slowly than this.
  • Highest flying. There are records of a Rüppell's Vulture
    Rüppell's Vulture
    Rüppell's Vulture is a large vulture that occurs throughout the Sahel region of central Africa. The current population of 30,000 is in decline due to ongoing loss of habitat and other pressures...

     Gyps rueppelli, a large vulture, being sucked into a jet engine 11,550 m (37,900 feet) above the Ivory Coast in West Africa. The animal that flies highest most regularly is the bar-headed goose
    Bar-headed Goose
    The Bar-headed Goose is a goose which breeds in Central Asia in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes and winters in South Asia, as far south as peninsular India. It lays three to eight eggs at a time in a ground nest....

     Anser indicus, which migrate
    Bird migration
    Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

    s directly over the Himalayas
    Himalayas
    The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

     between its nesting grounds in Tibet
    Tibet
    Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

     and its winter quarters in India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    . They are sometimes seen flying well above the peak of Mount Everest
    Mount Everest
    Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international boundary runs across the precise summit point...

     at 8,848 m (29,028 feet).
  • Most maneuverable. A number of flying animals are known for their maneuverability. Many animals that can hover are often very maneuverable, being able to move in any direction as well as stay still. Other flying animals known for their aerial acrobatics are bat
    Bat
    Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

    s and crow
    Crow
    Crows form the genus Corvus in the family Corvidae. Ranging in size from the relatively small pigeon-size jackdaws to the Common Raven of the Holarctic region and Thick-billed Raven of the highlands of Ethiopia, the 40 or so members of this genus occur on all temperate continents and several...

    s.

Gliding/parachuting

  • Most efficient glider. This can be taken as the animal that moves most horizontal distance per metre fallen. Flying squirrel
    Flying squirrel
    Flying squirrels, scientifically known as Pteromyini or Petauristini, are a tribe of 44 species of squirrels .- Description :...

    s are known to glide up to 200 m, but have measured glide ratio of about 2. Flying fish have been observed to glide for hundreds of metres on the drafts on the edge of waves with only their initial leap from the water to provide height, but maybe obtaining additional lift from wave motion. On the other hand Albatross
    Albatross
    Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm-petrels and diving-petrels in the order Procellariiformes . They range widely in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific...

    es have measured lift/drag ratios of 20, and thus fall just 1 meter for every 20 in still air.
  • Most maneuverable glider. Many gliding animals have some ability to turn, but which is the most maneuverable is difficult to assess. Even Paradise tree snake
    Chrysopelea paradisi
    Paradise Tree Snake or Paradise Flying Snake Chrysopelea paradisi is a species of snake found in Asia. It can, like all species of its genus Chrysopelea, glide by stretching the body into a flattened strip using its ribs. It is mostly found in moist forests and can cover a horizontal distance of...

    s, Chinese gliding frogs, and gliding ant
    Gliding ant
    Gliding ants are arboreal ants of several different genera that are able to control the direction of their descent when falling from a tree. Living in the rainforest canopy like many other gliders, gliding ants use their gliding to return to the trunk of the tree they live on should they fall or be...

    s have been observed as having considerable capacity to turn in the air.

Arthropods

  • Insects (flight). The first of all animals to evolve flight, insects are also the only invertebrates that have evolved flight. The species are too numerous to list here. Insect flight
    Insect flight
    Insects are the only group of invertebrates known to have evolved flight. Insects possess some remarkable flight characteristics and abilities, still far superior to attempts by humans to replicate their capabilities. Even our understanding of the aerodynamics of flexible, flapping wings and how...

     is an active research field.
    • Gliding bristletails (gliding). Directed aerial gliding descent is found in some tropical arboreal bristletails
      Archaeognatha
      Archaeognatha is an order of wingless insects, also known as jumping bristletails. They are among the least evolutionarily changed insects, appearing in the Devonian period along with the arachnids. The name Archaeognatha is derived from Greek Archaeos meaning "ancient" and gnatha meaning "jaw"...

      , an ancestrally wingless sister taxa to the winged insects. The bristletails median caudal filament is important for the glide ratio and gliding control
    • Gliding ant
      Gliding ant
      Gliding ants are arboreal ants of several different genera that are able to control the direction of their descent when falling from a tree. Living in the rainforest canopy like many other gliders, gliding ants use their gliding to return to the trunk of the tree they live on should they fall or be...

      s (gliding). The flightless workers of these insects have secondarily gained some capacity to move through the air. Gliding has evolved independently in a number of arboreal ant species from the groups Cephalotini
      Cephalotini
      Cephalotini is a tribe of ants in the subfamily Myrmicinae. Although they are wingless, biologists have observed them gliding. They will glide back to the trunk of their tree, which is much safer than the ground or water below. They are among a number of groups of gliding ants. They feed mainly on...

      , Pseudomyrmecinae
      Pseudomyrmecinae
      The ant subfamily Pseudomyrmecinae is a small group, containing only three genera of generally slender, wasp-like forms that forage solitarily and sting readily.-External links:* on the UF / IFAS Featured Creatures Web site...

      , and Formicinae
      Formicinae
      Formicinae is a subfamily within the Formicidae containing ants of moderate evolutionary development.Formicines retain some primitive features such as the presence of cocoons around pupae, the presence of ocelli in workers, and little tendency toward reduction of palp or antennal segmentation in...

       (mostly Camponotus). All arboreal dolichoderines and non-cephalotine myrmicines except Daceton armigerum do not glide. Living in the rainforest canopy like many other gliders, gliding ants use their gliding to return to the trunk of the tree they live on should they fall or be knocked off a branch. Gliding was first discovered for Cephalotes atreus in the Peru
      Peru
      Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

      vian rainforest. Cephalotes atreus can make 180 degree turns, and locate the trunk using visual cues, succeeding in landing 80% of the time. Unique among gliding animals, Cephalotini and Pseudomyrmecinae ants glide abdomen first, the Forminicae however glide in the more conventional head first manner. The following page has some good videos of gliding ants. http://www.canopyants.com/glide_intro.html
  • Spiders (parachuting). The young of some species of spiders travel through the air by using silk draglines to catch the wind, as may some smaller species of adult spider, such the money spider family. This behavior is commonly known as "ballooning". Ballooning spiders
    Ballooning (spider)
    Ballooning is a term used for the mechanical kiting that many spiders, especially small species, as well as certain mites and some caterpillars use to disperse through the air. Many small spiders use gossamer or especially fine silk to lift themselves off a surface or use the silk as an anchor in...

     make up part of the aeroplankton
    Aeroplankton
    Aeroplankton is the term used to describe the tiny lifeforms which float and drift in the air, carried by the current of the wind; it is the atmospheric analogue to oceanic plankton....

    .

Molluscs

  • Flying squid (gliding). Several oceanic squids, such as the Pacific flying squid, will leap out of the water to escape predators, an adaptation similar to that of flying fish. Smaller squids will fly in shoals, and have been observed to cover distances as long as 50 meters. Small fins towards the back of the mantle do not produce much lift, but do help stabilize the motion of flight. They exit the water by expelling water out of their funnel, indeed some squid have been observed to continue jetting water while airborne possibly providing thrust even after leaving the water. This may make flying squid the only animals with jet-propelled aerial locomotion.

Fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

  • Flying fish (gliding). There are over 50 species
    Species
    In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

     of flying fish
    Fish
    Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

     belonging to the family
    Family (biology)
    In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

     Exocoetidae. They are mostly marine
    Marine (ocean)
    Marine is an umbrella term. As an adjective it is usually applicable to things relating to the sea or ocean, such as marine biology, marine ecology and marine geology...

     fishes of small to medium size. The largest flying fish can reach lengths of 45 cm, but most species measure less than 30 cm in length. They can be divided into two-winged varieties and four-winged varieties. Before the fish leaves the water it increases its speed to around 30 body lengths per second and as it breaks the surface and is freed from the drag of the water it can be traveling at around 60 km/h. The glides are usually up to 30–50 metres in length, but some have been observed soaring for hundreds of metres using the updraft on the leading edges of waves. The fish can also make a series of glides, each time dipping the tail into the water to produce forward thrust. The longest recorded series of glides, with the fish only periodically dipping its tail in the water, was for 45 seconds (Video here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7410421.stm). It has been suggested that the genus Exocoetus is on an evolutionary borderline between flight and gliding. It flaps its enlarged pectoral fins when airborne, but still seems only to glide, as there is no hint of a power stroke. It has been found that some flying fish can glide as effectively as some flying birds http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-flying-fish-20100911,0,2807712.story.
  • Halfbeak
    Halfbeak
    The halfbeaks are a geographically widespread and numerically abundant family of epipelagic fish inhabiting warm waters around the world. The family Hemiramphidae is divided into two subfamilies, the primarily marine Hemiramphinae and the freshwater or estuarine Zenarchopterinae...

    s (gliding). A group related to the Exocoetidae, one or two hemirhamphid species possess enlarged pectoral fins and show true gliding flight rather than simple leaps. Marshall (1965) reports that Euleptorhamphus viridis can cover 50 m in two separate hops.
  • Freshwater butterflyfish
    Freshwater butterflyfish
    The freshwater butterflyfish or African butterflyfish, Pantodon buchholzi, is the only species in the family Pantodontidae within the Order Osteoglossiformes. It is not closely related to saltwater butterflyfishes.-Description and habits:...

     (possibly gliding). Pantodon buchholzi has the ability to jump and possibly glide a short distance. It can move through the air several times the length of its body. While it does this, the fish flaps its large pectoral fins, giving it its common name. However, it is debated whether the freshwater butterfly fish can truly glide, Saidel et al. (2004) argue that it cannot.
  • Freshwater hatchetfish
    Freshwater hatchetfish
    The freshwater hatchetfishes are a family, Gasteropelecidae, of ray-finned fish. The common hatchetfish is the most popular member among fish keeping hobbyists...

     (possibly flying). There are 9 species of freshwater hatchetfish split among 3 genera. Freshwater hatchetfish have an extremely large sternal region that is fitted with a large amount of muscle that allows it to flap its pectoral fins. They can move in a straight line over a few metres to escape predators.

Amphibians

  • Rhacophoridae
    Rhacophoridae
    Rhacophoridae is a family of frog species, which occur in tropical regions of Asia and Africa. They are commonly known as shrub frogs, or more ambiguously as "moss frogs" or "bush frogs". Some Rhacophoridae are called "tree frogs"...

     flying frog
    Flying frog
    A "flying" frog is a frog that has the ability to glide. That is, it can descend at an angle of less than 45° relative to the horizontal. Arboreal frogs can also descend vertically, but only at angles greater than 45°, which is referred to as parachuting...

    s (gliding). Gliding has evolved independently in two families of tree frogs, the Old World
    Old World
    The Old World consists of those parts of the world known to classical antiquity and the European Middle Ages. It is used in the context of, and contrast with, the "New World" ....

     Rhacophoridae and the New World
    New World
    The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

     Hylidae. Within each lineage there are a range of gliding abilities from non-gliding, to parachuting, to full gliding. A number of the Rhacophoridae, such as Wallace's Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus
    Rhacophorus nigropalmatus
    The Abah River Flying Frog , commonly known as Wallace's Flying Frog, is a moss frog found at least from to Malay Peninsula into western Indonesia. It is named for the biologist, Alfred R. Wallace, who collected the first specimen to be formally identified.R. dennysii, R...

    ), have adaptation for gliding, the main feature being enlarged toe membranes. For example, the Malayan flying frog glides using the membranes between the toes of its limbs, and small membranes located at the heel, the base of the leg, and the forearm. Some of the frogs are quite accomplished gliders, for example, the Chinese gliding frog Polypedates dennysi can maneuver in the air, making two kinds of turn, either roll
    Flight dynamics
    Flight dynamics is the science of air vehicle orientation and control in three dimensions. The three critical flight dynamics parameters are the angles of rotation in three dimensions about the vehicle's center of mass, known as pitch, roll and yaw .Aerospace engineers develop control systems for...

    ing into the turn (a banked turn
    Banked turn
    A banked turn is a turn or change of direction in which the vehicle banks or inclines, usually towards the inside of the turn. The bank angle is the angle at which the vehicle is inclined about its longitudinal axis with respect to its path....

    ) or yaw
    Flight dynamics
    Flight dynamics is the science of air vehicle orientation and control in three dimensions. The three critical flight dynamics parameters are the angles of rotation in three dimensions about the vehicle's center of mass, known as pitch, roll and yaw .Aerospace engineers develop control systems for...

    ing into the turn (a crabbed turn).
  • Hylidae flying frog
    Flying frog
    A "flying" frog is a frog that has the ability to glide. That is, it can descend at an angle of less than 45° relative to the horizontal. Arboreal frogs can also descend vertically, but only at angles greater than 45°, which is referred to as parachuting...

    s (gliding). The other frog family that contains gliders.

Reptiles

  • Draco lizards
    Draco lizard
    Draco also known as Flying Dragons is a genus of agamid lizard from South and Southeast Asia. The ribs and their connecting membrane can be extended to create a wing, the hindlimbs are flattened and wing-like in cross-section, and a small set of flaps on the neck serve as a horizontal stabilizer....

     (gliding). There are 28 species of lizard
    Lizard
    Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

     of the genus
    Genus
    In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

     Draco
    Draco lizard
    Draco also known as Flying Dragons is a genus of agamid lizard from South and Southeast Asia. The ribs and their connecting membrane can be extended to create a wing, the hindlimbs are flattened and wing-like in cross-section, and a small set of flaps on the neck serve as a horizontal stabilizer....

    , found in Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

    , India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    , and Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

    . They live in trees, feeding on tree ants, but nest on the forest floor. They can glide for up to 60 m and over this distance they lose only 10 m in height. Unusually, their patagium (gliding membrane) is supported on elongated ribs rather than the more common situation among gliding vertebrate
    Vertebrate
    Vertebrates are animals that are members of the subphylum Vertebrata . Vertebrates are the largest group of chordates, with currently about 58,000 species described. Vertebrates include the jawless fishes, bony fishes, sharks and rays, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds...

    s of having the patagium attached to the limbs. When extended, the ribs form a semicircle on either side the lizard's body and can be folded to the body like a folding fan.
  • Gliding Lacertid
    Holaspis
    Holaspis is a genus of wall lizard in the family Lacertidae found in West Africa. They are capable of gliding flight, due to their bubbly light bone structure. They are predatory arboreal small lizards that eat small insects. They are occasionally kept as pets. Females may be slightly less...

    s (gliding). There are two species of gliding lacertid, of the genus Holaspis
    Holaspis
    Holaspis is a genus of wall lizard in the family Lacertidae found in West Africa. They are capable of gliding flight, due to their bubbly light bone structure. They are predatory arboreal small lizards that eat small insects. They are occasionally kept as pets. Females may be slightly less...

    . Found in Africa
    Africa
    Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

    . They have fringed toes and tail sides and can flatten their bodies for gliding/parachuting.
  • Ptychozoon flying gecko
    Ptychozoon
    Ptychozoon is a genus of arboreal gecko from Southeast Asia, known as Flying Geckos or Parachute Geckos. They are characterized by cryptic coloration and elaborate webs surrounding the neck, limbs, trunk, and tail. These membranes help to conceal the gecko against trees...

    s (gliding). There are six species of gliding gecko, of the genus Ptychozoon
    Ptychozoon
    Ptychozoon is a genus of arboreal gecko from Southeast Asia, known as Flying Geckos or Parachute Geckos. They are characterized by cryptic coloration and elaborate webs surrounding the neck, limbs, trunk, and tail. These membranes help to conceal the gecko against trees...

    , from Southeast Asia. These lizards have small flaps of skin along their limbs, torso, tail, and head that catch the air and enable them to glide. http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2010/06/ptychozoon_parachute_geckos.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TetrapodZoology+%28Tetrapod+Zoology%29
  • Lupersaurus flying gecko
    Luperosaurus
    Luperosaurus is a genus of geckos commonly known as Fringed Geckos. They are found in the Southeast Asian mainland and archipelago, extending from the Malay Peninsula, through the Philippines and Indonesia. These are small geckos, characterized by the flaps of skin on the front and rear of their...

    s (gliding). A possible sister-taxon to Ptychozoon which has similar flaps and folds and also glides.http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2010/06/ptychozoon_parachute_geckos.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TetrapodZoology+%28Tetrapod+Zoology%29
  • Thecadactylus flying gecko
    Thecadactylus
    Thecadactylus is a gekko genus from the tropical Americas. It belongs to the gecko family Phyllodactylidae. Until 2007, it was believed to be monotypic...

    s (gliding). At least some species of Thecadactylus, such as T. rapicauda, are known to glide. http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2010/06/ptychozoon_parachute_geckos.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TetrapodZoology+%28Tetrapod+Zoology%29
  • Cosymbotus flying gecko
    Cosymbotus
    Cosymbotus, the Asian house geckos, is a genus of Gekkonidae. It may contain a single species, Cosymbotus craspedotus ; another species included in the genus, Cosymbotus platyurus is now usually classified under the genus Hemidactylus....

     (gliding). Similar adaptations to Ptychozoon are found in the two species of the gecko genus Cosymbotus
    Cosymbotus
    Cosymbotus, the Asian house geckos, is a genus of Gekkonidae. It may contain a single species, Cosymbotus craspedotus ; another species included in the genus, Cosymbotus platyurus is now usually classified under the genus Hemidactylus....

    .
  • Chrysopelea
    Chrysopelea
    Chrysopelea, or more commonly known as the flying snake, is a genus that belongs to the family Colubridae. Flying snakes are mildly venomous, though they are considered harmless because their toxicity is not dangerous to humans...

    snakes (gliding/parachuting). Five species of snake from Southeast Asia, Melanesia
    Melanesia
    Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

    , and India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    . The paradise tree snake of southern Thailand
    Thailand
    Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

    , Malaysia, Borneo
    Borneo
    Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

    , Philippines
    Philippines
    The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

    , and Sulawesi
    Sulawesi
    Sulawesi is one of the four larger Sunda Islands of Indonesia and is situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. In Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatra have larger Indonesian populations.- Etymology :The Portuguese were the first to...

     is the most capable glider of those snakes studied. It glides by stretching out its body sideways and opening its ribs so the belly is concave, and by making lateral slithering movements. It can remarkably glide up to 100 m and make 90 degree turns. Follow this link for videos of gliding snakes.

Birds

  • Bird
    Bird
    Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

    s (flying, soaring) Again the species are too numerous to nominate. Bird flight is one of the most studied forms of aerial locomotion in animals. See List of soaring birds for birds that can soar as well as fly.

Mammals

  • Flying phalangers or wrist-winged gliders (subfamily Petaurinae) gliding possums found in Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

    , and New Guinea
    New Guinea
    New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

    . The gliding membranes are hardly noticeable until they jump. On jumping, the animal extends all four legs and stretches the loose but muscularly controlled folds of skin. The subfamily contains seven species. Of the six species in the genus Petaurus
    Petaurus
    The genus Petaurus contains flying phalangers or wrist-winged gliders, a group of arboreal marsupials. There are six species, Sugar Glider, Squirrel Glider, Mahogany Glider, Northern Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider and Biak Glider, and are native to Australia or New Guinea.Flying phalangers are...

    , the Sugar glider
    Sugar Glider
    The sugar glider is a small gliding possum originating from the marsupial family.The sugar glider is native to eastern and northern mainland Australia and is also native to New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago.- Habitat :Sugar gliders can be found all throughout the northern and eastern parts of...

     and the Biak Glider
    Biak Glider
    The Biak Glider is a species of marsupial in the Petauridae family. It is endemic to the Schouten Islands in West Papua of Indonesia....

     are the most common species. The lone species in the genus Gymnobelideus, Leadbeater's Possum
    Leadbeater's Possum
    Leadbeater's Possum is an endangered possum restricted to small pockets of remaining old growth mountain ash forests in the central highlands of Victoria north-east of Melbourne...

     has only a vestigial gliding membrane.
  • Greater glider (Petauroides volans) (gliding). The only species of the genus Petauroidae of the family Pseudocheiridae
    Pseudocheiridae
    Pseudocheiridae is a family of arboreal marsupials containing 17 extant species of ringtailed possums and close relatives. They are found in forested areas and shrublands throughout Australia and New Guinea.-Characteristics:...

    . This Marsupial
    Marsupial
    Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central...

     is found in Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

    , and was originally classed with the flying phalangers, but is now recognised as separate. Its flying membrane only extends to the elbow, rather than to the wrist as in Petaurinae.
  • Feather-tailed possum
    Acrobatidae
    Acrobatidae is a small family of gliding marsupials containing two genera, each with a single species, the Feathertail Glider from Australia and Feather-tailed Possum from New Guinea....

    s (family Acrobatidae
    Acrobatidae
    Acrobatidae is a small family of gliding marsupials containing two genera, each with a single species, the Feathertail Glider from Australia and Feather-tailed Possum from New Guinea....

    ) (gliding). This family of Marsupials contains two genera, each with one species. The Feathertail Glider
    Feathertail Glider
    The Feathertail Glider , also known as the Pygmy Gliding Possum, Pygmy Glider, Pygmy Phalanger, Flying Phalanger and Flying Mouse, is the world's smallest gliding possum and is named for its long feather-shaped tail. Although only the size of a very small mouse , it can leap and glide up to 25 metres...

     (Acrobates pygmaeus), found in Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

     is the size of a very small mouse and is the smallest mammalian glider. The Feathertail Possum (Distoechurus pennatus) is found in New Guinea
    New Guinea
    New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

    , but does not glide. Both species have a stiff-haired feather-like tail.

  • Bat
    Bat
    Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

    s (flying). There are many species of bat, again too numerous to nominate.
  • Flying squirrel
    Flying squirrel
    Flying squirrels, scientifically known as Pteromyini or Petauristini, are a tribe of 44 species of squirrels .- Description :...

    s (subfamily Petauristinae) (gliding). There are 43 species divided between 14 genera of flying squirrel
    Squirrel
    Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots , flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia...

    . Flying squirrels are found almost worldwide in tropical (Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

    , India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    , and Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

    ), temperate, and even Arctic
    Arctic
    The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

     environments. They tend to be nocturnal. When a flying squirrel wishes to cross to a tree that is further away than the distance possible by jumping, it extends the cartilage spur on its elbow or wrist. This opens out the flap of furry skin (the patagium
    Patagium
    *In bats, the skin forming the surface of the wing. It is an extension of the skin of the abdomen that runs to the tip of each digit, uniting the forelimb with the body.*The patagium of a bat has four distinct parts:...

    ) that stretches from its wrist to its ankle. It glides spread-eagle and with its tail fluffed out like a parachute, and grips the tree with its claws when it lands. Flying squirrels have been reported to glide over 200 m.
  • Anomalure
    Anomalure
    Anomaluridae is a family of rodents found in central Africa. They are known as anomalures or scaly-tailed squirrels. There are seven extant species, classified into three genera...

     or scaly-tailed flying squirrels (Anomaluridae family) (gliding). These brightly coloured African rodents are not squirrels but have evolved to a resemble flying squirrels by convergent evolution
    Convergent evolution
    Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

    . There are seven species, divided in three genera. All but one species has gliding membranes between their front and hind legs. One genus is particularly small and is known as flying mice, but similarly they are not mice.
  • Colugo
    Colugo
    Colugos are arboreal gliding mammals found in South-east Asia. There are just two extant species, which make up the entire family Cynocephalidae and order Dermoptera. They are the most capable of all gliding mammals, using flaps of extra skin between their legs to glide from higher to lower...

    s or Flying lemurs (order Dermoptera) (gliding). There are two species of flying lemur. This is not a lemur
    Lemur
    Lemurs are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are named after the lemures of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species...

    , which is a primate
    Primate
    A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

    , but molecular evidence suggests that colugos are a sister group to primates, however some mammologists suggest they are a sister group to bat
    Bat
    Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

    s. Found in Southeast Asia, the colugo is probably the mammal most adapted for gliding, with a patagium that is as large as geometrically possible. They can glide as far a 70 m with minimal loss of height.
  • Sifaka
    Sifaka
    Sifakas are a genus of lemur from the family Indriidae within the order Primates. Their name of the family is an onomatopoeia of their characteristic "shi-fak" alarm call. Like all lemurs, they are found only on the island of Madagascar...

     and possibly some other primates (possible limited gliding/parachuting) . A number of primates have been suggested to have adaptations that allow limited gliding and/or parachuting; sifakas, indri
    Indri
    The indri , also called the babakoto, is one of the largest living lemurs. It is a diurnal tree-dweller related to the sifakas and, like all lemuroids, it is native to Madagascar.- Etymology :...

    s, galago
    Galago
    Galagos , also known as bushbabies, bush babies or nagapies , are small, nocturnal primates native to continental Africa, and make up the family Galagidae...

    s and saki monkey
    Saki monkey
    Sakis, or saki monkeys, are any of several New World monkeys of the genus Pithecia. They are closely related to the bearded sakis of genus Chiropotes.-Range:...

    s. Most notably the sifaka, a type of lemur
    Lemur
    Lemurs are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are named after the lemures of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species...

    , has thick hairs on its forearms that have been argued to provide drag, and a small membrane under its arms that has been suggested to provide lift by having aerofoil properties. http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2010/08/literally_flying_lemurs.php
  • Cat
    Cat
    The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

    s and maybe others. (very limited parachuting). If they fall cats spread their bodies to maximize drag, a very limited form of parachuting. Cats have an innate 'righting reflex
    Cat righting reflex
    The cat righting reflex is a cat's innate ability to orient itself as it falls in order to land on its feet. The righting reflex begins to appear at 3-4 weeks of age, and is perfected at 7 weeks. They are able to do this as they have an unusually flexible backbone and no functional clavicle...

    ' that allows them to rotate their bodies so they fall feet first. Some other animals may show similar very limited parachuting. There are also anecdotal accounts of less limited parachuting, or even semi-gliding, in palm civets.

Animals which parachute, glide, or fly (extinct)

Reptiles

  • Extinct reptiles similar to Draco (gliding). There are a number of unrelated extinct lizard-like reptiles with similar "wings" to the Draco lizards. Icarosaurus
    Icarosaurus
    Icarosaurus is a genus of reptile from the Late Triassic Lower Lockatong Formation of New Jersey, dated to around 228 million years ago. It is closely related to lizards and the tuatara...

    , Daedalosaurus, Coelurosauravus
    Coelurosauravus
    Coelurosauravus is a genus of basal diapsid reptile, with specialized wing-like structures allowing it to glide. These were rod like structures with skin stretched over them; this feature is unique to the genus....

    , Weigeltosaurus, Mecistotrachelos
    Mecistotrachelos
    Mecistotrachelos is an extinct genus of flying reptile. The type and only known species is M. apeoros. This lizard-like animal was able to spread its ribs and glide on wing-like membranes. Mecistotrachelos had a much longer neck than other gliding reptiles of the Triassic such as Icarosaurus and...

    , and Kuehneosaurus
    Kuehneosaurus
    Kuehneosaurus is an extinct genus of Late Triassic reptile from the United Kingdom. Measuring 72 centimetres long , it had "wings" formed from ribs which jutted out from its body by as much as 14.3 cm, connected by a membrane which allowed it to slow its descent when jumping from trees...

    . The largest of these, Kuehneosaurus, has a wingspan of 30 cm, and was estimated to be able to glide about 30 m.
  • Sharovipteryx
    Sharovipteryx
    Sharovipteryx , was an early gliding reptile, from the middle-late Triassic period . Fossils have been found from the Madygen Formation of Kyrgyzstan along with the unusual reptile Longisquama...

    (gliding). This strange reptile, sometimes proposed as a pterosaur ancestor, from the Upper Triassic
    Triassic
    The Triassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about 250 to 200 Mya . As the first period of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic follows the Permian and is followed by the Jurassic. Both the start and end of the Triassic are marked by major extinction events...

     of Kirghiia unusually had a membrane on its elongated hind limbs, as opposed to the forelimbs, which is much more usual. In some reconstructions they had webbing on the forelimbs and neck as well.
  • Longisquama insignis (possibly gliding/parachuting). This small reptile may have had long paired feather-like scales on its back, however it has been more recently argued that the scales form just a single dorsal frill. If paired, they may have been used for parachuting. "Everything you can make out is consistent with it being a small, tree-living, gliding animal, which is precisely the thing you'd expect birds to evolve out of," says Larry Martin, senior curator at the Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/19479/.
  • Pterosaur
    Pterosaur
    Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

    s (flying). Pterosaurs were the first flying vertebrates, and are generally agreed to have been sophisticated flyers. They had large wings formed by a patagium
    Patagium
    *In bats, the skin forming the surface of the wing. It is an extension of the skin of the abdomen that runs to the tip of each digit, uniting the forelimb with the body.*The patagium of a bat has four distinct parts:...

     stretching from the torso to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger. There were hundreds of species, most of which are thought to have been intermittent flappers, and many soarers. The largest known flying animals are pterosaurs.

Birds

  • Theropods (gliding/flying). There were several species of theropod dinosaur
    Dinosaur
    Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

     thought to be capable of gliding or flying, that are not classified as birds (though they are closely related). Some species (Microraptor
    Microraptor
    Microraptor is a genus of small, four-winged dromaeosaurid dinosaurs. Numerous well-preserved fossil specimens have been recovered from Liaoning, China...

     gui
    , Microraptor zhaoianus, and Cryptovolans pauli) have been found that were fully feathered on all four limbs, giving them four 'wings' that they are believed to have used for gliding or flying.

Mammals

  • Volaticotherium antiquum
    Volaticotherium antiquum
    Volaticotherium antiquum was an actively mobile ancient gliding insectivorous mammal that lived in what would become Asia during the Jurassic period, around 154 mya. It is the only member of the genus Volaticotherium, family Volaticotheriidae, and order Volaticotheria.It was not closely related to...

    (gliding). The earliest known flying or gliding mammal. This squirrel-sized animal belonged to a now extinct ancestral line and was not related to modern day flying or gliding mammals, such as bats or gliding marsupials. It lived at least 125 million years ago and used a fur-covered skin membrane to glide through the air http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6176061.stm.
  • Several species of extinct bat
    Bat
    Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

     have been found, like Icaronycteris
    Icaronycteris
    Icaronycteris is an extinct genus of microchiropteran bat that lived in the early Eocene, approximately 52.2 million years ago. Four exceptionally preserved specimens are known from the Green River Formation of North America. There is only one thoroughly described species of bat in the genus, I...

    and Palaeochiropteryx
    Palaeochiropteryx
    Palaeochiropteryx is an extinct genus of bat from the Middle Eocene of Europe. It contains two very similar species – Palaeochiropteryx tupaiodon and Palaeochiropteryx spiegeli, both from the famous Messel Pit of Germany...


See also

  • Animal locomotion
    Animal locomotion
    Animal locomotion, which is the act of self-propulsion by an animal, has many manifestations, including running, swimming, jumping and flying. Animals move for a variety of reasons, such as to find food, a mate, or a suitable microhabitat, and to escape predators...

  • Flying mythological creatures
  • Organisms at high altitude
    Organisms at high altitude
    Organisms can exist at high altitude in a habitat, while flying or gliding, or through man-made systems. Many animals have adapted to high altitude life and some have evolved to cope well with the problems of an environment with a reduced level of oxygen....


External links

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