Ever wondered how and why flamingos stand and sleep on just one leg? Now scientists believe to have found an answer to this question and also to have solved two of the theories revolving around the matter.
The flamingo is capable of a seemingly impossible feat as it stands on one long and spindly leg for what looks like remarkable periods of time. The birds are also able to sleep while in this same position. Now, researchers state that this action is less of an effort than it might seem. Namely, they argue that it requires no muscle activity at all from the flamingo.
Study results were published in a paper in the journal Biology Letters.
A Flamingo Stands on Just One Leg Because it is Easier?
The two most common theories regarding this seemingly strange position argue that it may help conserve heat or reduce muscle fatigue. Namely, some consider that standing with both feet in cold water could reduce the body temperature. Or that the bird stands on one leg while the other rests and vice versa.
But this last theory seemingly doesn’t stand. A team of researchers tested, for the first time, the actual muscle effort levels for maintaining the one-legged position. Lena Ting and Young-Hui Chang, the study co-authors, both part of the Georgia Institute of Technology, carried out their tests at Zoo Atlanta.
There, they observed and studied eight young Chilean flamingos. They used a force plate, a device which can “measure the small motions of the body when you stand”.
The device recorded a slight amount of swaying as the flamingo is awake and standing. But as they fell asleep, this swaying stopped, which came as a surprise and seems even counterintuitive. Nonetheless, this suggests that such slight sways are actually ‘correcting’ other movements while awake. But as the birds fall asleep, this one-legged activity requires little or no muscle activity.
“What we showed is that when they go to sleep their bodies can sort of flap forward due to gravity, and then the whole thing just collapses and becomes very stable,” said Ting.
Also, their research seems to suggest that flamingos find it easier to stand on one leg than on both, mainly due to the mechanics of its body. The flamingo appeared to be less stable when on two legs than on just one.
Image Source: Pixabay