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On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight

David E. Alexander



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Oxford University Press
19 November 2015
Mathematics & Sciences; Evolution; Birds (ornithology); Palaeontology; Dinosaurs & the prehistoric world
From airplanes to birds, the phenomenon of flight has always amazed and mystified humans. Therefore, it is unsurprising that scientists have invested a substantial amount of research into unraveling the secrets of flight evolution. Over the course of the past decade, the science of flight evolution has recently experienced a research renaissance, most of the information has been confined to the ivory tower of academia. 

In On the Wing, David Alexander delves into the evolution of flight in each of the four animal groups that evolved powered flight: insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats. Alexander presents and compares each group's evolutionary history, including diversification and partial or complete extinction, especially as related to flight. The evolution of flight in animals is fascinating story riddled with scientific controversy and colorful characters, from the incredible Archaeopteryx to the recently-discovered feathered dinosaur Microraptor. Chapter topics include aerodynamics, comparisons and contrasts among the powered flyers, and the ultimate evolution away from flight. Alexander even examines the surprisingly diverse group of gliding animals, including squirrels, snakes, and ants.

Through rigorous yet accessible writing, Alexander offers a comprehensive and engaging account of the evolution of flight, from dinosaurs to modern birds. On the Wing will delight and inform everyone from bird lovers to dinosaur enthusiasts, and offers key insights into the perpetual mystery of flight.
By:   David E. Alexander
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 238mm,  Width: 174mm,  Spine: 20mm
Weight:   458g
ISBN:   9780199996773
ISBN 10:   0199996776
Pages:   224
Publication Date:   19 November 2015
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
1 Can't Tell the Players without a Scorecard ; 2 Theme and Variations: Similarities and Differences among Nature's Flyers ; 3 How to Fly? ; 4 Gliding Animals: Flight without Power ; 5 Insects: First to Fly ; 6 Birds: The Feathered Flyers ; 7 Bats: Wings in the Dark ; 8 Pterosaurs: Bygone Dragons ; 9 Pedestrians Descended from Flyers: Loss of Flight ; 10 Unifying Themes?

David Alexander grew up near Dayton, Ohio, and earned a B.S. at the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. at Duke University. He has been on the faculty of the University of Kansas for over 20 years.

Reviews for On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight

This book provides a very accessible, well-illustrated synthesis of current understanding of how this most wondrous, rare, and beneficial of adaptations came to be. From birdwatchers to bug collectors, dinosaur enthusiasts, bat lovers, and even pilots, anyone with an interest in nature, evolution, and flight will enjoy this fascinating book. Highly recommended. D. Flaspohler, CHOICE Dependably engaging The Washington Post Alexander tells us that this book had a long gestation; he started writing it in 2002. But if the writing was difficult the reading is easy; the book ranks highly on that score. But Alexander has not compromised on the scientific content, and he gives all the different views he describes a fair hearing while not hesitating to say where his own preference lies. This is definitely a book that I shall be reading more than once. Anthony Campbell's Book Reviews On the Wing would be an excellent introduction to the field for amateur birders and entomologists - or just the flight curious. Furthermore, while reading, I found myself designing an undergraduate seminar course, using the book as a foundation and introduction to supplemental primary research. Brandon E. Jackson, Bioscience

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