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Nature's Flyers

Birds, Insects, and the Biomechanics of Flight

Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2003

David E. Alexander's fascination with the many animals and plants that have harnessed the air is evident in Nature's Flyers: Birds, Insects, and the Biomechanics of Flight, a detailed account of our current scientific understanding of the primary aspects of flight in nature.

Instead of relying on elaborate mathematical equations, Alexander explains the physical basis of flight with sharp prose and clear diagrams. Drawing upon bats, birds, insects, pterosaurs, and even winged seeds, he details the basic operating principles of wings and then moves progressively through more complex modes of animal flight, including gliding, flapping, and maneuvering. In addition to summarizing the latest thinking about flight's energy costs, Alexander presents a holistic view of flight and its ramifications as he explores the ecology and evolution of flying animals, addressing behaviorally important topics such as migration and navigation. With somewhat surprising answers, the author then concludes his study by examining the extent to which natural flight has been inspiring or instructive for the architects of human flight—airplane designers and engineers.

About the Authors

David E. Alexander is an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Kansas.


"Scientifically accurate, up-to-date, and highly accessible, Nature's Flyers will interest not only amateur and professional ornithologists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, physiologists, and engineers, but also anyone who is curious about the effects of flight on the evolution and diversity of the natural world."

"Alexander achieves the difficult feat of explaining intrinsically complex phenomena without using mathematical or entomological jargon. As a result, the book is clear, beautifully written, and suitable for people at all levels... It introduces readers to some long-standing puzzles... How do some insects manage to fly nonstop over hundreds of miles? How do migrating birds find their way?... I recommend the book to anyone who is curious about flight."

- Z. Jane Wang - Physics Today

"Alexander does an excellent job of keeping the amazement and appreciation alive while clearly explaining the complexities of flight in a manner accessible to anyone... a thoroughly enjoyable and informative book."

"This is a fascinating book and would make a valuable addition to the school library."

- Peter Anderson - School Science Review


"This book provides a useful popular-level treatment of animal flight, covering not just biomechanical but also ecological and evolutionary aspects of aerial locomotion... No comparable treatment of flight exists in the literature."

- Robert Dudley, University of Texas at Austin
Johns Hopkins University Press
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