They are true acrobats. The kind of skill they developed is amazing. Parachuting salamanders live in redwoods – they can even glide and maneuver in the air!
Floating in the air
what is the reason this California salamander flies like this? So they return to a tree from which it fell or jumped, avoiding terrestrial predators. “They have an exquisite amount of maneuverable control,” Christian Brown said in a statement. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida and is first author of the paper. “They can turn. They can also flip over if they get upside down. They can hold that parachuting posture and move their tail up and down. So they do horizontal maneuvers. The level of control is just amazing.”
The aerial prowess of the so-called wandering salamander is in high-speed video images. They were taken in a wind tunnel at the University of California, Berkeley. There, a free-fall simulation was performed.
“There is no discontinuity in their movements. They’re just floating in the air,” said Robert Dudley. He is a UC Berkeley professor of integration. biologist and an expert on animal flight. “It’s deeply embedded in their motor response. And it’s not just passive skydiving, they’re not just skydiving downward. They’re also doing the lateral movement, which is what we would call gliding.”
The behavior is even more surprising. Parachuting salamanders do not have great conditions for doing what they do. They have no skin flaps, for example, to indicate their ability to parachute.
“Wandering salamanders have large feet, long legs, active tails. All these things lend themselves to aerial behaviors. But everyone assumed it was for climbing,” Brown said. “So, it’s not really a dedicated aerodynamic control surface. However, it works as both. It helps them climb, and it seems to help them parachute and glide as well.”
Future research is expected. They hope to find out how they manage to maneuver without obvious anatomical adaptations. Something never before noticed by many other animals with similar aerial abilities.