Saturday, October 15, 2005

The First Biplanes Were Dinosaurs

Sopwithsaurus rex?

New analysis of the winged Microraptor gui suggests that the first feathered dinos relied on a biplane-like wing configuration to swoop from tree to tree. The result may settle a century-old controversy over how the first feathered creatures achieved flight.

“It is intriguing to contemplate that perhaps avian flight, like aircraft evolution, went through a biplane stage before the monoplane was introduced,” said Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University. “It seems likely that Microraptor invented the biplane 125 million years before the Wright 1903 Flyer.”

The illustration is not to scale Microraptor was a little dinosaur. The wings are actually the feathered arms and legs. Original reconstructions had the wings fore-and-aft in flight, but apparently the biplane configuration is anatomically more correct and aerodynamically more stable. I can see a whole series of comic strips where World-War-1-flying-ace Snoopy invents a time machine.