1173 – I Know Dino Crossover
This episode will be full of feathered friends flying you off to dreamland. This episode is a crossover the the “I Know Dino” Podcast by my friends Sabrina and Garret you can find the original episode here https://iknowdino.com/pyroraptor-episode-390/
or add I Know Dino to your podcast app and listen to episode 390!!
Episode 1173 – I Know Dino Crossover
[START OF RECORDING]
SCOOTER: Friends beyond the binary, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s time for the podcaster who’s sitting in a new chair…well, the chair’s not new, but it’s new to the studio, AKA, the climb-in closet. I record under the stairs in my apartment, and this chair is upgraded. It’s also way bigger than the chair I had before, but…yeah, we’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to it. But it’s time…if you’re wondering, why is this person talking about the…? That sounds so pointless and boring, talking about the chair you’re sitting…I say, well, welcome to Sleep With Me, the podcast that’s here to put you to sleep. We do it with a bedtime story. Alls you need to do is get in bed, turn out the lights, and press Play. I’m gonna do the rest.
What I’m going to attempt to do is create a safe place where you could set aside whatever is keeping you awake, to take your mind off of stuff, to keep you company so that you could fall asleep, 'cause you deserve a good night’s sleep. That’s why I make the show, and because I’ve been there in the deep, dark night tossing, turning, mind racing. So, I want to help if I can. I’m so glad you’re here. This show is very different, though. It does take a few tries to get used to, so kinda see how it goes. I mean, that’s only what a lot of listeners…regular listeners said; hey, it took two or three tries for me to get used to the show. But I’m here to help. What we’ll have coming up is support — that’s how the show is free — then a long, meandering intro. You don’t want to miss out on that.
Then we’re gonna be talking…this is a crossover episode with the podcast I Know Dino. So, if you love dino…if you’ve ever wondered about birds or dinosaurs or you’ve ever wanted to fall asleep…Bette Midler does not call the podcast, but if she ever wanted me to go on a tangent about On Eagle’s Wings…oh, that’s…is that not a Bette Midler song? Some part of my brain said, that’s not a Bette Midler song. Oh, boy. That’s a church song, isn’t it? Oh, boy. My brain…but, you know, Bette Midler is a deity to me. She’s a goddess and that’s…if you’re confused now, welcome. It’s…'cause this is a confused person talking. It’s time for Sleep With Me, the podcast that puts you to sleep. Thanks for making it possible, my patron peeps.
INTRO: [INTRO MUSIC] Hey, are you up all night tossing, turning, mind racing? Trouble getting to sleep? Trouble staying asleep? Well, welcome. This is Sleep With Me, the podcast that puts you to sleep. We do it with a bedtime story. Alls you need to do is get in bed, turn out the lights, and press Play. I’m gonna do the rest. What I’m going to attempt to do is create a safe place where you could set aside whatever’s keeping you awake. It could be thoughts on your mind, thoughts about the past, the present, the future. Thinking thoughts; holy cow. Do I have a lot of thoughts? Oh, boy…thoughts; they’re always on my mind. It’s not even…that’s not even funny, but it’s amusing because I say, you’re right; you’re always on my mind, thoughts, but particularly at bedtime, but you seem to multiply like Tribbles or whatever.
As soon as the light…as soon as my head hits that pillow, those thoughts…I say, what did you just…what do you do, sub-division? Is that what it’s…? Is that mitosis or meiosis? I mean, that’s what I say when my forehead hits…my hand hits my…meiosis. Not again. Then some part of me says, it’s mitosis. Also, these are just…by the way, can I talk to you about something else? They say, no, I was talking to him. So, it could be thoughts, it could be feelings, emotions related to thoughts, or feelings that are just there. It could be physical sensations, changes in time, temperature, routine. You could have something coming up, you could be going through something. Whatever it is, I’m here to keep you company and take your mind off of stuff so that you could fall asleep.
Really, I make the show because you deserve a good night’s sleep. I said it earlier; I’m gonna say it again. You deserve a place you can get some rest, a bedtime you don’t have to dread, a bedtime you could feel neutral about or even look forward to, even if it’s not this podcast. Even if you loathe me…I mean, I prefer you don’t let me know about it, because I have sleepwithmepodcast.com/nothankyou, so there’s tons of other sleep podcasts and sleepy stuff on there. But even if you loathe me, you still deserve a good night’s sleep. I want you to find something that’s gonna work for you because if you get the rest you need, whether it’s with this podcast or something else, your life’s gonna be more manageable. You could be out there doing things, living your life, and that’s important.
Sure, there’s a part of you or part of me or a part of people out there in the world that would say pish-posh to that, but it’s not true that it doesn’t matter. It does, and the reality is if you’re getting the rest you need and your life is more manageable and then you could be flourishing, it means our world’s a better place to be in, and that’s important. That means something to me. It also means more to me than maybe some person that’s sound asleep right now that we’re so happy for, partners of listeners…because I’ve been there. I might not know exactly what you’re going through but I can probably relate to how it feels, and if I can’t, there’s someone out there listening right now who can. I only bring all this stuff up to let you know you’re not alone in the deep, dark night, and I know this is a podcast and oh, boy, it’s pseudo-whatever.
It’s just a boring person talking and letting you know, hey, there’s a lot of people that can relate to that and it’s tough, and you do deserve a good night’s sleep. I know what that’s like. So, that’s why I make the show. What I’ll do is I’ll send my voice across the deep, dark night. I’m gonna use lulling, soothing, creaky, dulcet tones, pointless meanders, and superfluous tangents, all to keep you company and take your mind off of stuff so that you could fall asleep. Pointless meanders and superfluous tangents; you’ve kinda already seen those. It just means I get mixed up, I go off topic, I repeat myself, then I’ll go back, then I’ll say, what was I saying? Bette Midler, right? I gotta look up Bette Midler songs at some point during this intro. Oh, well, it’s Wind Beneath My Wings, not On Eagle’s Wings.
On Eagle’s Wings is a church song that I learned in church. Would you believe…? I guess…I don’t know if I was a choir boy. If I was, it was brief. No, I was in the choir briefly, maybe first, second, third grade until they said, you know, we’re looking for people in the choir whose foreheads — especially at your age — are not furrowed. Can you take that furrow out of your…? Can you relax your forehead? Then I said, this just isn’t gonna work, clearly. Not only is my voice not…they said, yeah, we’re looking for someone who could sit still, smile…and whatever’s going on with your forehead there and your eyes and that look…and I say, that’s called a steely gaze, by the way. Outside of choir, it’s reflective of my inner state, which is nothing like a steely gaze. They’d say, for the love of Steely Dan…okay, get to the point.
Oh, my point was that’s a point…there’s a pointless meander right there. So, a couple things to know about this podcast that do…this podcast does take some getting used to. It takes two or three tries to get used to the show. That’s what most regular listeners say. That’s only because, one, you’re probably frustrated and doubtful and skeptical if you can’t sleep, and you’ve probably tried other stuff and you’re probably a bit fed up, if you’re anything like me. Then you say, what…? I thought…when does this podcast start? I thought this was a…when are you gonna get the sleepy stuff? I say, well, this podcast has kinda always started. It’s always going nowhere; Sleep With Me. ‘Cause this is a podcast you just barely listen to. It keeps you company, but you don’t have to keep me company.
I’m here to keep you company. You’re not…you just have to bare…you don’t even have to acknowledge me. If you do want to acknowledge me, just say uh-huh, uh-huh. Yeah, sure, Scoots. Uh-huh, Bette Midler. When are you gonna talk about the…? I say, well, maybe…if I remember, I’ll get back to it. But it was somehow trying to link dinosaurs, birds, and then…and I’d say, of course…I’m gonna have to text Steven or something, 'cause…and the team at I Know Dino, 'cause now I can’t even remember Malcolm…Doctor…Ian Malcolm; there you go, and then Bette Midler, then On Eagle’s Wings, and then Wind Beneath My Wings. Oh, what was my point? This is a pod…you just say, uh-huh. Oh, sure, Scoots. Uh-huh. Yeah, sure.
Wind Beneath Bette Midler’s…what if Bette Midler was an eagle and she was soaring on the breath of dawn? She’d be on…she’d be soaring with eagle’s wings. There would be nothing on eagle…would she be on eagle’s wings if she had eagle’s wings? She’d be soaring on eagle’s wings. On Eagle’s Wings…bare…no, I got the two songs mashed up too much. Wind Beneath My Wings…but she’d be saying, oh yeah, wind beneath my wings. But maybe she’d be saying, thermal air beneath my wings. But we’re covering a episode from the podcast I Know Dino that kinda talks about this whole dinosaur/bird thing. So, that’ll be cool. Hopefully you’ll…instead of trying to learn something with Sleep With Me, you’ll just check out the original episode, which we’ll link to in the show notes. Oh, but what was my point?
Oh, this is a podcast you just barely listen to. I think I proved that point. It’s also a podcast that doesn’t put you to sleep. This is the first sleep podcast. I’ve been doing this almost ten years or eleven years. So, whatever…I don't know. 2023…so, ten years, and…but this is the first sleep podcast that doesn’t put you to sleep. It’s here to keep you company and take your mind off of stuff while you fall asleep. I’m here to be your bore-friend, your bore-bae, your bore-bib…never said that before. But really, I’m not…I’m only here to proverbially catch your drool, but I am. I’m here to proverbially catch your drool. If that could be…proverbial or metaphor…I guess metaphoric…is that more metaphorically? I’m metaphorically catching drool. They say, what did you want to do when you grow up?
Now that you’re outside…now that you don’t have to be in choir, what do you want to do with your…? Well, metaphorically, I’d like to catch some drool. They say, okay, go…why don’t you go to the…why don’t you go back to the office? I say, okay. It’s a well-worn path. I know my way. You don’t have to show me. By the way, I’ll be looking out…if you’re wondering where I am between now and the office, I’ll be staring out the window and wondering about those mash-up of those two songs. But also, I’m here to be your bore-friend, your bore-bae, your bore-sib, your bore-bud, your bore-bestie, your neigh-bore, your bore-bor, and your bore-bib, to be your friend in the deep, dark night. You don’t have to worry about falling asleep. That’s why the shows are over an hour.
I’m here to keep you company and to give you something else to think about other than whatever is keeping you awake. Tonight will be a nice little thing about dinos, and I’ll go…I’ll probably go off topic hundreds of times like I have already tonight. So, yeah, there’s no pressure to fall asleep. Shows are over an hour, and there’s people listening who can’t sleep or who need a break during the day. What else do you need to know? The structure of the show also really throws people off when they first get here, or some people that have been listening for a while. But there is a reason for the structure of the show and there are things you can do to alter the structure of the show, but that’s the way it could go out to the most people for free.
So, it has a greeting at the beginning; friends beyond the binary, boy…ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, proverbial droolers everywhere…hopefully I’ll…can I mint that? Metaphorically, proverb…what’s the proverbial…the drooler; that would be the proverb of the drooler. It’s not what you think. So, I don't know. Now my brain’s like, huh, is there…could we think of that? Not during…not right now. It wouldn’t be the best time. Hopefully listeners will remind us and then we’ll do a episode about it one day. But now my brain’s…now I’m stuck. Once something full of dull tangents catches my attention…oh, but the structure of the show. So, the greeting is here so you feel seen and welcomed in and you say, okay, I could check that podcast out. I’m not sure about it, but I’ll check it out.
Then there’s support so the show could be free, or if you pay for it — optionally — then you don’t have to deal with the support. That way it’s available to everybody who wants to listen. Then there’s a intro which is separate from the support. Again, the intro goes on and on and on, but for some people, especially when they don’t like the idea that the podcast needs support, they don’t like the intro, either. I don’t want you to miss out on it. There’s no benefit to me to making a extra twenty…a twenty-minute intro, whatever, 1,600 times or whatever we’ve done it…or 1,100 times. What are we on? 1160…so, 11…yeah, about 1,200 intros.
The reason the intro is different every time and the reason it’s long and meandering is because that way, whatever’s keeping you awake can’t quite adjust, 'cause they say, I had no idea you would share about…you’ve shared about all these things before, probably in a similar way, at least once in these 1,200 times, but never quite on this…in this manner. The funny thing is then two weeks from now, I’ll be like, huh, Bette Midler, huh? On Eagle’s Wings. Wind Beneath My Wings. Never thought of that before on an intro. That happens a lot, too, but I’ll talk about something else like…I don't know. I’ll say, what if…which…that would be a feather in my cap. I don't know what I would say. But I don't know the future…what my future tangents will be.
But the intro goes on and on and on really to be a buffer between being awake and asleep. There is a percentage of people that skip the intro. There’s people that pay for story-only episodes and there’s a percentage of listeners that are falling asleep. But for most listeners, the intro is there to ease you into bedtime whether you’re getting ready for bed, you’re doing a wind-down activity, chilling out, or you’re in bed getting comfortable. It slowly lowers the volume on the day, gives you a landing strip so that you could ease into bedtime. So, that’s why the intro goes on and on and on. Then there’s support for the show, and then there’s our story.
Tonight will be a crossover episode with I Know Dino — I love saying that — a podcast made by my good friends Sabrina and Garret that I met at a podcast meetup probably six or seven years ago; I don't know…and I’ve met over various times for…just great people and a really great show, and a popular subject…and then shows the beauty of podcasting and that you could have a unique take on all those things. So, I’m excited to do a episode about it. Then there will be thank-yous at the end. So, that’s the structure of the show, that’s why I make the show. I’m really glad you’re here. I really appreciate you coming by. I work really hard and I yearn and strive, and I really hope I can help you fall asleep. So, yeah, thanks again for coming by, and here’s a couple ways we’re able to do this for free twice a week.
Alright, everybody, this is Scoots here and this is a crossover episode based on the podcast I Know Dino, Episode 390. 390 episodes; that’s incredibly impressive for a podcast like…I mean, that’s…it’s a lot different than Sleep With Me. It involves a lot of research, a lot of work, and supporting things through day jobs and stuff, 390 episodes. So, please check out I Know Dino. Use the link in our show notes or just open your podcast app of choice and search for I Know…that’s I, the letter I, as in I, Gavin and Sabrina, or their guests saying, I Know Dino. Also, another example of a great title. Always love rhymes here. This episode was called, How Did Dinosaurs Become Birds? So, let’s get into it. What is required for flight? What would it take, as an example, for humans to fly? Not just gliding.
Gliding has evolved in over thirty…over thirty times in invertebrates, including flying fish which launch out of the water and glide with extended fins. We as humans are able to glide with a wing suit, but they require parachutes at the end of the flight. Fly like a bird…I want to fly away. I’ve said that, but I’ve never thought about…I’ve just thought about flying away, mostly at social gatherings, interpersonal things. Anytime I’m around someone else, I say, fly like a bird. I want to fly away. Okay, but to achieve powered flight, you need four things. One, you gotta have those wings, whether it’s on eagle’s wings or wind…having wings to have wind beneath them. They’ve got to be large enough to generate the required lift. You also…and there’s a lot of super…there’s superheroes that use devices to fly and some that have…that fly by power.
Okay, so you also need strong muscles to flap the wings and generate necessary thrust. Also, this is interesting 'cause this is a…this might not come out at the same time of the episode of The Mandalorian, but it’s just on my mind, that so far that being on The Mandalorian probably achieved one and two; a rigid, streamlined body. My memory of The Mandalorian is not…what about a rigid, non-streamlined way of life? Because that…number three, I’ve got partially. If you take out the streamlined body part, I have rigid viewpoints. Then you also need a lot of energy for flapping the wings. Let’s get into the math on this. There’s a maximum wing load in nature…is approximately 25 kilograms/m2. That’s 25 kilograms per square meter, or 5.2 pounds per square foot.
Wing load is the weight of the animal divided by its wing area. If a animal has two wings with one square foot each, the absolute maximum weight is about ten pounds. Most birds have a lower wing load. That’s proportionally larger wings than the minimum wing size. So, you got extra wings. Theoretically for a human with a mass of 140…approximately 140 pounds, that’s the average mass. We’d need a bare minimum of 28-square foot of wings and much longer arms. More typical wing load for a human would require wings about the size of a hang-glider. That’s a wingspan of 8 meters, 26 feet, and a area of over 100 square feet, or 9 square meters. So, that’s a king-sized bed sheet on each arm. Two, we’d need muscles…the muscles to flap those wings.
Now, this is interesting and detailed, 'cause flapping isn’t about creating lift; flapping is usually about generating thrust. Most of the lift is created by movement of the wings…of the wing through the air, similar to a airplane or glider. So, birds don’t necessarily have to flap to stay in the air. Birds can face into the wind and barely move their wings. They don’t need to flap if the wind providing the relative wind speed…to generate lift. There’s an exception; birds that can hover create 100% of their required lift by flapping their wings, like hummingbirds. That’s why hummingbirds can fly backwards and upside-down. The math for this exact thrust required for flight with fixable flapping wings is highly variable. So, that’s unlike the lift equation for fixed wings.
Birds often create vortices, like little tornadoes, to create extra lift. What we could also do is create a comparison of relative muscle size assuming our muscles could achieve the same power as bird muscles. That’s the assumption. The birds’ pectoral muscles are about one-tenth to one-fifth their body mass, while humans, we’re about 40% to 50% skeletal muscles, and our muscles are by far…our largest muscles are attached to our thips…thips…our hips and thighs. Being charitable, including the pectoris major and the deltoid, our major flapping muscles are about 2% of our body weight. So, we’re about 8% too low, I think. That’s 1.5 kilograms, 3 pounds. Studies have shown…these are all approximations. Studies have shown that birds need to use most of their muscle capacity to fly, so there isn’t a lot of wiggle room in that 10% to 20% calculation.
In addition, we have smaller muscle attachments on our arms and especially on our chests since we don’t have a big keel on our sternum. Alright, let’s get to that rigid, streamlined body. I got a rigid, non-streamlined mind. That support…that body will support flapping without weighing too much. Now, we do have a lot of flexibility in our torso. That’s gonna make flapping difficult. Birds’ bones are fused, giving them a rigid torso to push against while flapping. Rigidity is also important wherever the skin of the wing attaches to the body. Any flexibility that’s gonna lead to wing fluttering, like a sail flapping in the breeze, that’s not generating thrust or lift. A streamlined body is also gonna reduce drag. We have…focused on lift versus weight so far. Flying animals also have to balance thrust versus drag.
Just like aquatic animals, flying animals need to be streamlined to reduce drag, and they do that with a pointy head and a smooth body. I don't know if…remember…does anybody remember Slim Goodbody? But I don't…that just popped in my head. Human bodies have decent streamlining if we could go headfirst through the air. Unfortunately for flying, our center of gravity is near our hips, so if our lift was generated in our shoulders, our legs would stay beneath us and not behind us. I’m wondering…I love looking ahead. Is this gonna lead to…should we have wings on our hips? Can you imagine…who was that that had wings on their shoes? Was that Apollo? But anyway, we’d end up flying through the air at a really awkward angle, with our body creating a lot of drag behind us.
Hummingbirds use a more upright flight position, but they hover, which is difficult in other ways. Also, we don’t have a tail, which is not necessarily a requirement. There are B-A-T-Ss that have no tail, but tails do help a lot with aerodynamics, stability, and steering. We’d also need another source of lift so that disturbances in the air won't send us spinning. It can also be difficult having wings without a tail when it’s still. A bird with one source of lift, wing and no tail, is similar to us standing on one leg. It’s possible but not easy, especially in a strong breeze. Okay, then we get to the energy part. A lot of energy for flapping wings. Flying is an extreme aerobic exercise. As the only flying…other flying mammals are cave buddies, B to the A to the T to the Ss…are a best analog for energy use.
The ones that consume fruit, they have heart rates exceeding a thousand beats per minute while flying. We can’t…obviously we can’t do that. They also metabolize food very fast; eight minutes after eating the fruit they land on. Sometimes the strategy is fly to food; quickly eat the food to make up for the calories they just used. They use about 75 watts per…or watts over kilogram to fly. For a average 80 kg person, that works out to 6 watts…6 kilowatts, maybe. Now, that’s eight horse power, just for fun facts. To maintain 6 watts, we’d have to metabolize 5,000 calories an hour, which humans can’t do. Swimming the butterfly or sprinting are two of the most calorie-intensive things humans do, and they cap out at 800 to 900 calories an hour.
We don’t have good enough metabolism and maybe not lungs to go an hour straight at that rate. So, both with the heart rate and calorie consumption, we can only get to a fifth of what flying animals achieve. So, in order to fly, we’d have to be much lighter, proportionally bigger arms, switch out our largest muscles from our legs to our arms, develop some new skeletal structures, a faster metabolism…and it’s pretty impressive that flight has even evolved three times in vertebrates. Pterosaurus, Pterosaurs, bat…birds and bats. Sorry, anybody that knows how to pronounce dinosaur names. There is a human-sized bird from the paleontological record that shows what a human-sized bird might look like. That’s called the Argentavis, Argent like Argentina and Avis like the rental car. Argentavis lived in the late Miocene Era.
I got some pronunciations here. Thanks, I Know Dino. That was 6 to 9 million years ago in Argentina. Estimates put its weight at 70 to 72 kilograms. That’s 154 to 159 pounds. It’s the heaviest known flying bird. While standing on the ground, it would have been 1.5 to 1.8 meters tall. That’s five to six feet tall. It’s a terrestrial bird, not a sea bird. Usually recreated like a giant Andean condor. Argentavis had an estimated wingspan of 5.1 to 6.5 meters. That’s 16 feet, 8 inches to 21 feet, 4 inches. While in flight, it would be 2.7 to 3.5 meters. That’s approximately 9 to 11.5 feet long. The tail feathers behind it and its neck stretched out in front made it much longer horizontally in flight than it is tall on the ground. Argentavis has a wing area of 8.1 meters squared. That’s 87 square feet or square meters…meters squared.
Even with all that, a study by Chatter G and others from 2007 found that Argentavis was too big for some things. Probably couldn’t sustain flapping flight for very long. It probably couldn’t have taken off from just standing. It would have had to be…run downhill or go off of a edge to generate lift. It’s only been found in Argentina, and maybe that’s because the Andes have lots of opportunities for thermals, updrafts, and places to run downhill and stuff like that, reducing the need to flap wings. Models show that it was a good glider, only falling about three degrees while traveling 67 kilometers per hour. That’s 42 miles per hour. Now, differences between us and Argentavis point to all the key details dinosaurs had to evolve to achieve powered flight. So, let’s get into it.
They needed to grow their arms into much larger wings to create a lot of lift. For powered flight, they’d need huge chest muscles and large muscle attachment sites for flapping muscles. A 2011 study by Andrew Biewener showed the anatomy and size of the bird’s two main chest muscles. The pectoralis…pectoralis…which beats down and accounts for 10% to 20% of the bird’s weight, that attaches to the sternum on the upper arm, the deltopectoral crest. The other muscle is the Supracoracoideus, which lifts the arm and only accounts for 2% of the bird’s weight. Like the pectoralis, it attaches to the sternum but runs over the shoulder like a pulley; attaches to the back of the arm. The Supracoracoideus…maybe that’s the correct one? Achieves the same effect as our deltoid, but more efficiently.
Now, Argentavis and dinosaurs in general have a head start on us in at least two ways. Now, theropods, they have relatively light bodies thanks to partially hollow bones and air sacs, and they can get more oxygen into their bodies for faster respiration thanks to their fancy, unidirectional lungs which supply fresh air even when they’re exhaling. Plus two features that work well together; they have feathers instead of hair, which can help with lift, and a tail which gives a place for those feathers to attach. This creates an excellent lightweight stabilizer and a second source of lift besides the arms. Now, here’s the thing; feathers aren’t necessary, but they can help. Of the three times flight has evolved, only one had flight feathers the way birds to today.
Pterosaurs…Pterosaurs…saurs…might have simple feathers not too much different than our cave-based being hair. Feathers are only really beneficial for flight if they can maintain a shape that is useful for creating lift. Imagine what you’d want to stick to your own arm to create lift. Start to imagine yourself as a feathered friend or a non-feathered friend. Something that’s firmly attached; okay, check…if…in your imagination. Lightweight; check. How many people have Styrofoam peanuts? I don't think those are gonna help, that we’ve…how many people are doing…? Don’t do it. I did it for us, 'cause I didn’t read the whole thing. Well, I did, the first one. Something firmly attached…lightweight that maintains its shape when pushed by air.
So, I did glue — imaginarily, by the way, only — Styrofoam peanuts to myself, which I don’t even think are a thing because they weren’t good for the world. But you used to get…everything you’d buy, they’d ship in Styrofoam peanuts. So, you could google it and see what they look like. They didn’t look…I guess they more looked like circus peanuts, which don’t look like peanuts, either. They weren’t the same color. Usually they were green or an un…a pale color. But let’s get back into it 'cause there’s…you gotta read more. Before you cover yourself in Styrofoam peanuts, even with your imagination, keep reading first. Flight feathers are defined by a central strong rachis — that’s pronounced ‘rachis’ — that runs the length of the feather and attaches to the hand or arm bone.
The rachis attaches the feather to the arm bone and…yeah, they go right…that’s how they attach. Off that central rachis, there are lots of branching structures that are locked together with little hooks. Now we’re really getting into this info here. The feathers are made completely out of thin and hollow pieces of keratin for light weight. Remember; not all flight feathers need to be asymmetric, though it helps in many cases. Imagine the rachis in the middle of a feather with air blowing on one side. The side with the air blowing on it will deform. You gotta shorten the branches so they’re closer to the rachis so they don’t change shape as much. Birds have the shortened branches pointed forwards so they get less distorted while flying through the air.
Now, the earliest dinosaur we found with asymmetric flight feathers is Archo…Archaeopteryx…Archaeopteryx. It means ‘ancient wing’ but can also be translated as ‘ancient feather’. In German, it’s called Ufogel, or Ufogel. Ufogel, which means ‘first bird’. The fossils we found are from the Jurassic Period, approximately 150 million years ago, mostly in Germany, but it’s still debated where Archaeopteryx fits in bird evolution. The consensus seems to be that it’s not the ancestor of modern birds. Holy evolution, right? One hypothesis is that Archaeopteryx might even be developing flightlessness like steamer ducks. Now, dinosaurs had feathers for millions of years before they were useful for flight.
If the common ancestor of dinosaurs and Pterosaurs had feathers, it would mean feathers evolved approximately 100 years before Archaeopteryx. Now, feathers are very useful structures. Feathers are great display structures. They can be used for many things; attracting mates like a peacock. I don't know, do turkeys use feathers for that? Believe it or not…I live in a city, but we have a lot of wild turkeys. A lot of people call me a turkey, though, too. Feathers are useful structures because they’re great display structures. Oh, I already read that part; attracting mates. They could also be used like a ostrich puffing up their feathers to say, hey, this is my space. Please back away. I enjoy…you could look at me from afar, but I’m not a peacock; I’m an ostrich, so do not enter my zone of pecking.
Now, ostriches cannot fly and peacocks can only barely fly, but they definitely still need their feathers. Feathers are amazing for keeping warm and cool. Penguins use them to keep warm, and they also help with waterproofing. They also help to keep cool. There’s a red kangaroo, an emu…and also an emu. Oh, red kangaroo versus emu. So, there’s a study showing that a emu…E-M-U, can stay active in Australia while kangaroos have to stay in the shade. That’s because the feathered wings kinda create a parasol to keep your body cool. They can also adjust their wings to change airflow around their bodies, which…something can’t easily…we can’t do that with our hair, that I know about. Also similar to thick fur, they help with UV rays. There’s not just one kind of feather.
I think we already talked about that, but let’s cover it again. Birds have a different type of feathers and different layers depending on their environment. Sometimes a single feather serves multiple purposes. That sounds like a line in a Bette Midler song; sometimes a single feather serves multiple purposes. She would rewrite it in a more poetic way, but that’s poetic on its own. Some feathers are flight feathers on the end and serve other functions near the base, where they are overlapped by other feathers. There are a lot of reasons dinosaurs may have first evolved more complex feathers before being able to fly. Earlier feathered dinosaurs have been shown more recently, including Anchiornis. That one they spelled out for me, though. Anchiornis. That was approximately 10 million years older than Archaeopteryx.
Anchiornis is about…approximately 160 million years old. Holy cow, is that amazing. It seems to have symmetrical features on its arms, which wouldn’t have been as good for flying as the asymmetric feathers found on later birds. Anchiornis also has unusual feathers on its legs that seem more like display structures than flight feathers. Two possible paths for the evolution of flight are the ground-up or tree-down methods. Ground-up…remember, you need to generate lift…to generate lift you need airflow over your wings, and flapping is one way to get that initial airflow. Another option is by running with arms outstretched. That’s how airplanes take off. Then Franz Nopcsa described dinosaurs running quickly with their arms used for stability.
Then over times, the arms may have been supplemented with feathers, eventually creating enough lift for flight. He basically assumed that they ran into a glide first, then evolved the muscles for powered flight. Another is pouncing, like a kitty cat that jumps on a laser pointer. Maybe small wings for dinosaurs or a raptor buddy could have made their jumps bigger. Then over millions of years, the wings get larger and larger until they can glide and eventually fly onto those laser pointers. Now, more recently, the ground-up theory, the W…capital W, capital A-I-R, wing-assisted incline running, this could be called trees-up…can be observed today with baby birds. They use their wings as they’re growing to help them run up steep slopes like tree trunks or branches.
Researchers have demonstrated that their flapping allows them to run up steeper slopes. It’s counterintuitive, but they don’t use their wings to lift them up the branch. Instead, they seem to use their wings to generate downforce so they get a better grip while running uphill, kind of like a spoiler on a car. That detail makes it a little harder to translate into powered flight since it’s the opposite set of muscles that are important for flight, but an option that could benefit from some lift is running on the water like different beings that run…can run on the water. Potentially, flapping their wings could help dinosaurs run across water. Now, trees-down…a small dinosaur lives high up in the trees and wants to jump from tree to tree or from tree to somebody they’re taking a closer look at.
Over time they evolve the ability to glide from tree limbs. We do know that gliding is much easier to evolve than flying, having evolved many times in mammals alone. Instead of running to achieve this speed to generate lift over wings or the wind beneath my…the lift beneath my wings…generate lift…the lift over my wings. Jumping out of a tree works easier. This is why many truisms for dinosaurs, birds, and flight-based mammals doesn’t…human truisms, they don’t work about these things. Flying through the air means gravity is pulling the wings through the air, which…without much effort for the dinosaur. Eventually they start flapping to get a little more thrust and control over direction, and slow improvements over time eventually result in a flying bird. There’s another life lesson.
I mean, that’s how it goes for sleep podcasts, too. Now, here’s one to lay on you, though; ground-up versus tree-down may be a false dichotomy. There’s a big, broad world out there. So, with feathers, dinosaurs could use the same structure for multiple things at the same time. So, there’s no reason to say the feathers couldn’t help to jump, glide, and run uphill, depending on the situation. I don't know if they help when your parents went away…if your parents go away on a weeks’ vacation and they leave the keys to their car, particularly if it was a brand-new Porsche. We still don’t know what features the first birds had or when the first birds evolved or where the first birds evolved. So, here you go…there you go, future scientists. Now, most of the feathered dinosaurs we find currently are from China in a specific forest.
Birds seem to come from the Dromaeosaurs. The includes the Velociraptors. They don’t…now…if we went back in…if they were in the future, they would call those the Hollywood dinosaurs, but they don’t. Even the other dinosaurs that were in the first few…oh no, they were in the first movie. The dinosaurs that were in previous dinosaur movies, they’re famous for their ability to climb. Some proposed ancestors to modern birds…Scansoriopteryx. Scansoriopteryx. Scansoriopteryx; that’s a climbing wing. That’s from the late Jurassic, approximately 160 million years ago, that was found in Liaoning, China. Then we got the Microraptor. That makes me think of Micro Machines. You say, you could…if they would have listened to I Know Dino, Jurassic World’s gift shops would have been filled with Microraptors.
I think you have to stick a penny in the back of them when you…so they do…pop a wheelie. But they were also found in Liaoning, China. Specifically, the Jehol Biota had four wings…possibility for the first birds. The area can…has a ton of other early bird contenders like the Confuciusornis, the Rahonovis…that’s from the Late Cretaceous, 70 million years ago. That’s in Madagascar. When you look at the DNA, one suggestion is the common ancestor of modern birds came from South America in the Late Cretaceous. That’s approximately 95 million years ago. But we need more fossils before we know which bird came first. The trickiest thing is that feathers aren’t usually preserved in fossils, so we’re only getting good samples from a few places. That includes some of those parts of China.
Okay, now we get into the dinosaur of the day. It’s time for the dinosaur of the day, a Pyroraptor. This dino was featured in Jurassic World: Dominion. Also, Colin Trevorrow mentioned in an interview he likes Pyroraptors. It’s also in the games Jurassic World: Stick Around and Jurassic World: The Game, and it has feathers. Dinosaur…oh no, sorry. Dromaeosaurid; that’s what kinda…that lived in the Late Cretaceous in which is now Provence, France, the L’lle-Bouchard locality into Northern Spain, Victoria Formation, and the Tremper Group. It was a feathered raptor with a long, thin tail. It had large fingernails on the second toes of its feet that were 2.5 inches, 6.5 centimeters long. Estimated to be about five feet, 1.5 meters long. Weight is 17 to 22 pounds or 8 to 10 kilos, as a rough estimate.
The species type is Pyroraptor olympius, which means…oh, kinda…the genus name means…the person who took the fire, kinda like Prometheus, right? Fossils…these are fossils that…found after forest fires. The species name refers to Mont Olympe, a mountain in Provence where…near where the forest was found. A single, partial construction of its bones were found in 1992. This was described in 2000 by Ronan Allain and Philippe Taquet. The holotype is on the second fingernail of the left foot. Other specimens include the fingernail on the right foot, a right un…a forearm bone, two teeth, vertebrae, digits…two teeth were flattened and curved backwards and serrated. The first Dromaeosaur fossils found in France were Variraptor, previously only thought to be Megalosaurus ponenanesus.
Allain and Taquet say that the Variraptor was a nomen dubium based on the fossils being poorly preserved and the holotype having no distinguishing features. But in 2009, Buffeaut…Buffetaut and Phomenphen Chanthasit found Variraptor to be valid based on different shapes of the ulnas, the lower arm bones. They may have used those fingernails for different things; you know what I’m saying. In 2005, Phillip Manning and others modeled a Dromaeosaur hind limb to study how they used their fingernails and even built a robotic limb with a hydraulic arm based on the model and built a second digit and fingernail on an articulated foot of a Deinonychur antirrhopus. They put…made one…a fingernail with an aluminum core and a thin composite sheet of Kevlar and carbon fiber strands.
They tested that thing out and saw what it could do, and…high and low speeds. They said, okay, well, what could this be used for? Is it like a utensil or was it used for offensive purposes or climbing? Or for jumping and holding? Or…not fishing for fish, but similar to fishing, and…even for embracing, similar to big cats. Other animals that lived around the same time and place used the Ornithod rabadanodon…so, there’s a lot of other ones that I’m not gonna be able to say, but turtles…you could also see the Pyroraptor on the TV series Dinosaur Planet. Oh, on that episode, a Pyroraptor pod gets stranded on an island after a tsunami, contacts dwarf dinosaurs. Now it’s time for some fun facts. Time for some fun facts; it’s time for some fun facts. Okay, we talked about where flight started.
Let’s give an example of where it is today after 100 million years of evolution. I’m just laying it on you; 100 million years of evolution. Holy cow, am I thankful for that. Lots of people know the world’s smallest dinosaur was a bird called the bee hummingbird that weighs three grams…is about the size of your thumb. But most people don’t know that the world’s largest hummingbird is a giant hummingbird from the Andes in South America. It weighs in at a colossal 18 to 24 grams, which is just under an ounce, a little less than an ice cube. That’s ten times as much as the bee hummingbird, which is the lightest dinosaur of all time. The giant hummingbird’s length and wingspan are both about nine inches. Because of their large size, the giant hummingbird’s wings beat very slow for a hummingbird.
That’s about…approximately fifteen beats per second or 900 beats per minute. Speaking of beats per minute, at its rest, its heart beats 300 beats per minute with a peak rate of 1,020 beats per minute. Now, larger hummingbirds take more calories per weight to hover than smaller hummingbirds. The giant hummingbird takes an estimated…approximately 4.3 calories an hour to fly. That’s approximately 4 calories per gram per day. Like most hummingbirds, it gets most of those calories from nectar. According to National Park Service, if a person had the metabolism of a hummingbird, holy cow, it would have to eat 285 pounds or 129 kilos of protein each day, which is about 320,000 calories per day.
I Know Dino says, I’m pretty sure they took the approximate 4 calories per gram per day as an estimate times 180 pounds, 80,000 grams. Now, an alternative…you could also…to the protein would be 182 pounds of sugar. Now, if you use…this is fun. If you use the 1 to 4 ratio of sugar to water common in hummingbird feeders, that would be 103 gallons of nectar a day. Now, that’s about a half a year’s food worth of food every day, and probably a underestimate since it’s not linear and larger hummingbirds need more calories per weight. Now, on top of that, the female hummingbirds have to find sources of calcium since nectar doesn’t have any. So, sometimes they would eat wood ash or specific dirt because their beaks aren’t particularly well-suited to catching insects, but they do have some from time to time.
As a matter of fact, hummingbird wings are pretty similar to insect wings. Their arms are less flexible than other bird wings, but they have more…a more flexible shoulder so they can rotate their wings 180 degrees to create lift while flapping forward and backwards. Their arm and hand bones are also very short compared to the full wing. Those bones only go about one-third to halfway to the wing tip. Rigid feathers make up the rest. Primary flight feathers, the feathers attached to the hand bones at the tip of the wing, can make up 75% or more of the wing area. By the way, that’s a great use of feathers, since feathers are much lighter than other things, so the force direction…reverse direction is reduced. Now, the downside is hummingbirds can’t fold their wings.
Let’s take it home with a bonus discussion of people that have achieved the human power of flight. Now, usually they’ll use something like a bicycle to power a propeller — you see these on black-and-white movies — while sitting in a ultra-light aircraft. Compared to the 6,000 watts of flapping force a human would need to fly, an ultra-light aircraft with a propeller reduced the power requirements to 280 watts, which many people can do for a couple hours. The current record is…the MIT Daedalus 88 was traveled 180…115 kilometers — that’s 72 miles — from Crete to Santori in 1988. Then a human-powered ornithopter — that’s a aircraft with flapping wings — has successfully flown straight and level for the first time. Did it…the first time in 2010. That was called the Snowbird.
It was built by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. It had a wingspan of 32 meters. That’s 105 feet, 8 feet less than a 737. Long, skinny wings to allow for more efficient flight, but they’re less maneuverable. It weighed 43 kilograms, 95 pounds empty. Made from carbon fiber, foam, and balsa wood. It got a tow to take off, but maintained flight for 19.3 seconds and 145 meters; that’s 476 feet. Works out to 25.6 kilometers per hour, 15.9 miles per hour. It needed the really long wings to generate enough lift at such a low speed. Now, the thing is, it wouldn’t be able to turn very well since it’s so wide and only about 10 to 20 feet off the ground. Shortly after flight, the whole thing didn’t…it was low to the ground, but it came apart due to wear on its components from the flapping motion.
It also took 600 to 700 watts of input, one horse power. That’s more than double the propeller-style ornithopter. Each flap took about 700 to 800 pounds of force, and the pilot managed only sixteen flaps before getting tired. So, I’m just here…I don't…it doesn’t take anywhere near that force to…for me to flap my gums off to dreamland, but I want to thank Garret and Sabrina. They have such a positive impact on the podcasting community, for their listeners. I get to learn a lot from them. For all of you as I tuck you in, whether it’s eagle’s wings, the wind beneath your wings, or you’re just…you’re…we’re all evolving; that’s the honest truth, and we get to participate in it a little bit. But you do need your rest for that. But there’s plenty other episodes of Sleep With Me ready to go, and if you’re still listening during the day, check out I Know Dino. I Know Dino. Goodnight, everybody.
[END OF RECORDING]
(Transcribed by Leah Hervoly)
- Steely Gaze
- Early Bird Contenders
- “The Wind Beneath My Wings”
- I Know Dino Podcast
- Jurassic World: Dominion
Notable Talking Points:
- Is that mitosis or meiosis?
- Fancy Unidirectional Lungs
- The Lift Beneath My Wings