The world is full of surprising creatures, from plants in spectacular shapes, to animals with out-of-the-ordinary habits. Had you spent every single day studying them, you surely wouldn’t get bored.
I suggest you set aside the cute kitty pictures (which you come across with anyway whenever you’re idly surfing the web), and discover something about some peculiar flying creatures.
Do you want to tell me that you already know which are the flying creatures?! First, we all think about birds. But there is nothing peculiar about a flying bird. Neither does a flying insect leave you with your mouth wide open in surprise. Still, there are some creatures which you can find up in the sky, although you wouldn’t expect to. You would think that they belong in the water, on earth, or climbed into some tree. But, they wanted to fly, and what you might think, didn’t stop them. I’m going to tell you about them right now.
On this page:
The squid is a giant mollusk, similar to an octopus, which, whenever it gets onto someone’s plate, gives him or her unthinkable pleasures. Why? Because everyone takes great delight by the taste of it.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that some squid got its wings and feathers, and took his flight among the singing birds in the trees. When I’m talking about the squids that fly, I’m referring to the ability of some species (at least 15 1)”Ommastrephidae” in Wikipedia) to move itself through air, about the water surface, in giant leaps of up to 55 m in length and 6 m in height 2)”New observations on airborne jet propulsion (flight) in squid, with a review of previous reports” – study conducted by Silvia Maciá, Michael P. Robinson, Paul Craze, Robert Dalton and James D. Thomas, published in Journal Molluscan Studies in 2004. It’s their way to “run”, or, even better said, to “fly” away from predators.
How are they doing this, specifically? They make use of the propulsion system, which also helps them to move around in water. They collect water in the cavity of their body and then push it out with a jet 3)”Oceanic squid do fly” – a scientific study conducted by K. Muramatsu, J. Yamamoto, T. Abe, K. Sekiguchi, N. Hoshi and Y. Sakurai, published in Marine Biology, may 2013 issue4)”Can Squid Fly?: Answers to a host of fascinating questions about the sea and sea life” by Tony Rice, book published by Adlard Coles in 2013.
Have you ever tried to turn on a faucet attached to a hose pipe at its maximum capacity? Did you see how the hose moves around by itself? That’s pretty much the way a flying squid moves through the water and above its surface.
Because they have muscular bodies, squid can easily “penetrate” the surface of the water and thrust into the air. From there, they continue to eliminate the collected water, thus managing to overcome in some way the gravitational attraction. That’s how a flying squid can reach up to 6 m above the surface of the water and then hover over it dozens of meters. But then, it’s true that they cannot remain in the air for more than a few seconds.
For the squids, moving through the water is more difficult than moving above it, because the first one requires more energy 5)”Squid rocket science: How squid launch into air” – a scientific study conducted by Ron O’Dor, Julia Stewart, William Gilly, John Payne, Teresa Cerveira Borges and Tierney Thys, published in Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography on the 15th of October 2013. Still, the flying squids don’t want to show off with their unusual ability, thus they mostly fly during night-time, when nobody sees them. Maybe, they fear the fishermen. Or, maybe, they want this to be their little secret.
Being caught on tape is an extremely rare occasion. Here you can watch such a rarity:
People too draw upon such an ability. The system is called a Flyboard.
That’s great! I bet that even Stéphane Prayas, the international champion, would love to try it, with the same ease of a flying squid.
Maybe you remember the scene from the “Life of Pi” movie. No matter where you saw them, I bet that you still think they are amazing. I know that you don’t believe it, but they are not such a rare thing to come across. There are about 64 species of flying fish, spread across all oceans. They belong to the Exocoetidae family. This kind of fish can rise up to 1.2 m (4 feet) above the water surface and hover into the air, covering a distance between 15 and 92 m. If the wind is favorable, they can travel for up to 400 m in a single glide 6)”Wing design and scaling of flying fish with regard to flight performance” – a study conducted by F.E. Fish, published in Journal of Zoology, July 1990 issue !
Let’s not forget that is fish we’re talking about. No matter how developed their flying abilities are, they cannot live out of water for long. The longest glide ever recorded on a ferry lasted for 45 seconds 7)”Fast flying fish glides by ferry” – material published by the BBC on the 20th of may 2008.
It’s amazing to see such a fish “in action”. They are moving their pectoral fins in almost the same way the birds are flapping their wings.
This kind of fish is small or medium in size. The biggest are 45 cm in length, but most of them are no bigger than 30 cm.
Their pectoral fins are longer than the usual size of the most common species of fish, forming something like a pair of wings. Some flying fishes have longer pelvic fins too, a reason for them being called “the four-winged flying fish”.
In order to rise above water, the flying fish increases the speed with which it moves through water up to 60 km/h. Their body is torpedo-shaped, which helps them to rise above the water surface. As long as they are in the air, they propel themselves with their caudal tail every once in a while. They use air currents from above the water to maintain their gliding flight.
Like the flying squids, this kind of fish also mostly moves around above the water surface to avoid predators – meaning bigger fish, like the tuna or the mackerel. Unlike the squids, they use much more energy to move through air. It’s much more difficult to take flight from water than it is from land. If it wasn’t for this, the marine creatures would have flown long before now.
Everybody knows that bats fly. It’s such a common fact that you didn’t even think much about it. And still it’s not such an ordinary thing to do:
Bats are the only mammals that can actually fly.
When I say that, I mean the actual act of flying. They can move through air by flipping their wings. They can travel long distances, without needing anything in particular. Just like the ordinary flying birds.
But I say it again: bats are mammals. In fact, they don’t flip their wings, but their… hands. They even have fingers, just like you. Only they make the best of flapping them.
You already thought of vampires, didn’t you? Of the humanoids from the horror stories or of the bats that I’ve just told you about? They are crazy about fresh blood, so there’s small wonder they go by this name. Any writer would exploit this idea, transforming these animals into some phantasmagorical characters. But the truth is that when the blood-sucking bats were first discovered in the South America, the vampire stories had been already circulating from mouth to mouth for hundreds of years. Therefore, the bat was named after the character and not the other way around. Then the bat made his way, naturally, in the story. Goes along perfectly with Halloween.
However, vampire bats don’t suck your blood right from your throat, as you would think. They pinch a deer or a bovine discretely, so as they don’t even notice, and then they lick their blood. The bats can even go for humans while sleeping, but the pinch itself is not dangerous (excepting the case when the animal is rabid) 8)”Vampire bat” in Encyclopædia Britannica.
These creatures have inspired all kinds of stories which seem like they were cut out from horror movies. But these have nothing to do with reality. Bats don’t hurt people, they can even do them good. Anticoagulants can be extracted from the saliva of vampire bats, which improves the blood circulation of heart patients and people who have suffered a stroke.
Not all bats have such preferences when comes to eating. Most of them prefer flowers, nectar, and pollen (they are rather vital for the pollination of a certain species of passion flower), and for other insects, and fruits.
Bats are nocturnal. They can fly up to 50 km in one night. They sleep in caves, in mines, in barns, in trees, and in other places that can shield them from bad weather or predators. They sleep upside-down, hanging with their claws by the branches of trees, or by the roof of the shelter they chose 9)Facts About Bats by Alina Bradford, article published in Live Science on August 8, 2014.
Being friendly creatures, bats live in colonies. Usually, hundreds of them, sometimes even more. The largest colony can be found in Bracken Cave, Texas – which consist of “only” 20 million bats 10)”Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book” by Don E. Wilson, book published by Smithsonian Books in 1997. Just imagine what it’s like when they go out to search for food!
Bats have a very poor sight, but they are not blind. However, it’s better not to rely on sight when trying to find your way through the darkness, especially if you’re flying. Bats perceive the distance where the different objects are by echolocation. They emit high-pitched sounds, thus being able to locate how far the obstacles are according to their echo. They use the same method to find food. They can hear while flying, where the food is. (“My dear, I heard about a delicious fruit tree. How about eating out tonight?”) Unlike humans, bats don’t scream because they are hysteric. They scream because they have a purpose!
There are between 900 and 1200 species of bats in the world – depending on who you ask. Not only they are of an unbelievable variety, but they also are incredibly numerous, representing a fifth of all the mammals of the world 11)Facts About Bats by Alina Bradford, article published in Live Science on August 8, 2014!
Just as the birds have their impressive-in-size representatives, so do bats. Even if, as a rule, they are small in size, to some species it doesn’t apply.
The biggest bats are the flying foxes. In some parts of the world they go by the name flying dogs. I should think that you already imagine how big they are. There are several species, with different characteristics. The biggest bats measure up to 40 cm, with a wing span of up to 1.8 m 12)”Endangered Bats” by Bobbie Kalman and Kristina Lundblad, book published by Crabtree Publishing Company in 2006! As big as a pray bird. Only that pray birds are solitary animals, while bats like to stay in groups. The flying foxes live in colonies with thousands of members. Even up to 20,000 13)”Pteropus vampyrus” – a scientific study conducted by Thomas H. Kunz and Deborah P. Jones, published in Mammalian Species on May 12, 2000!
If you live in Australia or in the South-Eastern Asia, when the night falls, it is possible to come across something like this:
It’s like Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds“, only with bats. What do you think, should he had the script modified?
If I scared the hell out of you, let me put you at ease: the big bats eat only fruits. They are more docile than a kitty.
Flying lemurs – isn’t it amazing? You can actually see them flying through the air; only, they are not lemurs and they are not actually flying.
They are also called colugo. They bear a very close resemblance to lemurs, but they are not related to them. That’s how they came to be known as flying lemurs.
They live in Southeast Asia. They are very good at tree climbing and have a preference for the nightlife, which makes them very little-known.
On the back, they have something like a “little blanket” called patagium. It stretches from the neck to the first digit. The patagium is what makes the wings of bats – from which the resemblance 14)”Patagium” in Wikipedia.
When they jump from one tree to another, the flying lemurs spread their “little blanket” like a kite. Thus, they can hang in air long enough to reach the next tree.
By the way, have you ever seen a wingsuit?
If you can say about a man with a wingsuit that he can fly, then you can say it about the flying lemurs too.
Squirrels are adorable, everyone knows that. But if you’ve seen white squirrels or black squirrels, maybe you’ve told yourself that there is nothing more strange with these cute little animals than this. How about flying squirrels?
Your mind is already trying to grasp how a squirrel can actually fly. There’s a special technique involved. Look:
I couldn’t help it. But let’s get back to more serious matters.
There are about 43 species of flying squirrels, scientifically known as Pteromyinae. They live in almost all the tropical forests from all over the world, but also in arctic or temperate climates 15)”Flying squirrel” in Encyclopædia Britannica.
A flying squirrel looks like a hamster which has been ironed. But that happens only when she’s jumping from one tree to another, stretching the membranes that link the hind limbs to the forelimbs. When she’s sitting still on a trunk or a branch of a tree, it doesn’t look very different to any other furry rodent.
Practically speaking, it does the same thing as flying lemurs. Only that her patagium is covered with fur, which makes it less noticeable.
The flying squirrels can glide for about 45 m (150 feet), without touching anything. Even if it’s not an ordinary thing, there is a case in which a flying squirrel glided for 450 m (1500 feet) 16)”Rats, Bats, and Xenarthrans” by John P. Rafferty, book published by Rosen Education Service in 201117)”Flying Squirrels” by Marcia Zappa, book published by Big Buddy Books in 2015!
During the flight, it is even able to steer with her limbs. In the end, the tail helps her to land on the tree trunk.
The flying squirrels are omnivorous nighttime animals. They have predators all over the world. They have to guard themselves against domestic cats, dogs, wolves, snakes, and some pray birds.
The feathertail glider (Acrobates pygmaeus) is the smaller version of the flying squirrel.
This little mouse is among the smallest mammals to glide. It is 6-8 cm in body length, with a tail of 7-8 cm long, a maximum weight of 15 grams and it can only be found in Australia 18)”Feathertail glider (Acrobates pygmaeus)” in Wildscreen Arkive.
Although it has a very small patagium, this tiny marsupial can glide for more than 30 m. How is this possible? The long hair enlarges the surface of the patagium and of his flat tail, which is covered on sides with hair, just like the down feathers of birds.
Just like the name suggests, the feathertail glider is a true acrobat. When they fancy a circus show, all the other animals have to do is to watch him performing all kinds of aerial flips before landing on the right branch. It can even fly around the tree several times, twirling into the air, and so the predators get dizzy by only watching him.
Along side the fact that it glides like none other, the feathertail glider is also a very good climber. It can even climb vertical glass no matter its height. This ability is due to the shape of his limbs and their secretions, which allows him to attach himself to smooth trunk trees, like the eucalyptus, or to land on any object it wants; after, of course, his usual aerial acrobatics.
Maybe they won’t turn into princes if you kiss them, but they still do something interesting: they fly.
How can a frog fly? This might be one of the possibilities:
You think that flying frogs might have taken steroids? No, evolution finds natural ways to accomplish such things.
Many frog species have developed the ability to glide. The biggest of them all is Wallace’s flying frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus). It’s about 10 cm long and lives in the tropical forests of Malaysia and Borneo island.
Its fingers and toes are linked together by membranes which stretch like a fan when they jump from one tree or branch to another. With sprawling fingers and toes, the frog manages to control the air during jumping. Thus, it can glide for about 15 m (50 feet), sometimes even more. After a flight, it can safely reach the ground, but here it only drops by to mate and lay eggs. As for the rest of the time, it just sits in the tree, eating insects.
Wallace’s flying frog has a bright-green body color, yellow toes, black membranes and white abdomen. It seems like a cartoon character, but he’s actually kind of pretty. (Especially if it lands on your head.)
People have dreamed to fly for as long as they can remember. They first flew in their imagination – the story about Aladdin’s magic carpet have been told long before the existence of any aircraft. Then the imagination became reality. Now, man can fly by means of plane faster then any other bird; he can even go beyond the earth’s atmosphere or stay in the air…
But the dream remains. And this will continue until the man will finally be able to fly by himself, with no aircraft needed. How long do you think it will take?
A well-illustrated presentation of the most amazing pterosaurs, and not only (the surprises are at the end!)
A peek through the maximums reached by different birds, in terms of wingspan, length, weight, speed, etc.
A sum up of the largest and strongest birds of prey, and not only! (with excellent pictures)
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||”Ommastrephidae” in Wikipedia|
|2.||↑||”New observations on airborne jet propulsion (flight) in squid, with a review of previous reports” – study conducted by Silvia Maciá, Michael P. Robinson, Paul Craze, Robert Dalton and James D. Thomas, published in Journal Molluscan Studies in 2004|
|3.||↑||”Oceanic squid do fly” – a scientific study conducted by K. Muramatsu, J. Yamamoto, T. Abe, K. Sekiguchi, N. Hoshi and Y. Sakurai, published in Marine Biology, may 2013 issue|
|4.||↑||”Can Squid Fly?: Answers to a host of fascinating questions about the sea and sea life” by Tony Rice, book published by Adlard Coles in 2013|
|5.||↑||”Squid rocket science: How squid launch into air” – a scientific study conducted by Ron O’Dor, Julia Stewart, William Gilly, John Payne, Teresa Cerveira Borges and Tierney Thys, published in Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography on the 15th of October 2013|
|6.||↑||”Wing design and scaling of flying fish with regard to flight performance” – a study conducted by F.E. Fish, published in Journal of Zoology, July 1990 issue|
|7.||↑||”Fast flying fish glides by ferry” – material published by the BBC on the 20th of may 2008|
|8.||↑||”Vampire bat” in Encyclopædia Britannica|
|9, 11.||↑||Facts About Bats by Alina Bradford, article published in Live Science on August 8, 2014|
|10.||↑||”Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book” by Don E. Wilson, book published by Smithsonian Books in 1997|
|12.||↑||”Endangered Bats” by Bobbie Kalman and Kristina Lundblad, book published by Crabtree Publishing Company in 2006|
|13.||↑||”Pteropus vampyrus” – a scientific study conducted by Thomas H. Kunz and Deborah P. Jones, published in Mammalian Species on May 12, 2000|
|14.||↑||”Patagium” in Wikipedia|
|15.||↑||”Flying squirrel” in Encyclopædia Britannica|
|16.||↑||”Rats, Bats, and Xenarthrans” by John P. Rafferty, book published by Rosen Education Service in 2011|
|17.||↑||”Flying Squirrels” by Marcia Zappa, book published by Big Buddy Books in 2015|
|18.||↑||”Feathertail glider (Acrobates pygmaeus)” in Wildscreen Arkive|