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Mahmood Lytkin
Mahmood Lytkin

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In birds the effect of load carriage during terrestrial locomotion has been studied in only two species; guinea fowl, Numida meleagris, (Marsh et al., 2006; McGowan et al., 2006) and the barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis (Tickle et al., 2010). Guinea fowl are able to carry back loads more economically than the barnacle goose, while the metabolic cost incurred by both species is more economical than the seen in an equivalent sized mammal (Marsh et al., 2006; McGowan et al., 2006; Tickle et al., 2010). Birds and mammals have a similar scaling relationship between the metabolic cost of unloaded locomotion and body size (Taylor et al., 1982), however birds may have novel anatomical, postural and kinematic adaptations that account for their ability to carry loads efficiently (Marsh et al., 2006). Loading studies on birds have the potential to provide new insight as the anatomical adaptations required for the different forms of locomotion (walking, running, swimming, flying or diving) may highlight the underlying factors that determine energetic costs of locomotion. For example, efficient energy storage in the specialised hind limb muscle and tendon units in the cursorial guinea fowl could account for a proportion of the reduced metabolic rate during locomotion when loaded relative to the barnacle goose (Biewener and Corning, 2001; Daley and Biewener, 2003). In contrast, barnacle geese display adaptations for flight and swimming that are not optimal for terrestrial locomotion, such as large flight musculature and webbed feet. Furthermore, drag caused by the body and the feet during swimming may be minimised by placing the legs far back on the body in the goose and other water birds (Zeffer et al., 2003); however moving the legs away from the centre of mass is likely to be sub-optimal for terrestrial locomotion. The trade-off between flight, swimming and terrestrial performance in geese and other semi-aquatic species is reflected in their trunk and limb morphology, waddling motion, restricted gait selection and consequent lower top speed of terrestrial locomotion (Biewener and Corning, 2001; Nudds et al., 2010; Provini et al., 2012; Usherwood et al., 2008). Diving species have an elongated and streamlined body, and powerful leg and/or flight muscles, depending on whether they are wing (e.g. penguins, Sphenisciformes; auks, Alcidae) or foot propelled divers (e.g. diving ducks, Aythyinae; grebes, Podicepiformes). While research into the influence of load bearing has been conducted on two avian species (guinea fowl and barnacle goose) there are no studies using diving species.




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Compared to the barnacle goose the tufted duck has a more elongated body with flight musculature distributed over a longer sternum, likely resulting in a more cranial location of the centre of mass. Application of trunk loads will shift the centre of mass, caudally in the case of sternal loads and dorsally when applied to the back (Tickle et al., 2010). Unknown effects on roll and pitch stability may therefore be incurred, affecting underlying postural and locomotor muscle activity that in turn could account for a proportion of the increased metabolic cost. Consequent changes in the magnitude of body roll associated with the typical waddling gait of Anseriformes, while not quantified in this study, may represent an important factor to explain the variation between back and sternally loaded birds. Interpretation of load carrying studies is confounded by our limited knowledge of these underlying factors but they remain a useful tool to form a basic idea of the overall metabolic costs of various mechanical functions.


Placement: Ideally, choose a site near a wooded area and close to a clean wetland with a strong aquatic insect population. Both the egg-laying hen and her ducklings require a diet rich in aquatic invertebrates. Face the hole toward flight lanes or an adjacent wetland. If you are lucky enough to live near good habitat, angle the box so you can see part of the hole from your breakfast window. Squirrels can leap eight feet horizontally from tree trunks, and drop eleven feet from overhanging limbs, so plan accordingly. 350c69d7ab


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