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Hooks on Feathers Stick Together

Posted on Jun 25, 2020 by in The OFI Blog |

Credit: (Image by Teresa Feo / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.)
A cross section from an APS image stack of a pigeon wing feather. The red arrow points to an inter-feather hook for reference.


National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) Research Associate Dr. Teresa Feo is part of a team of scientists that has discovered the mechanism that connects feathers when birds fly. This research was carried out at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) User Facility located at the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory.

“What they found was a complex system of hook-shaped microstructures on the tops and bottoms of feathers, which lock with the corresponding hooks on adjacent feathers to form a single-direction fastener. When birds stretch their wings, these hook-like structures lock together to prevent gaps, and they unhook when the wings are retracted. The research team published their work in Science.”

“This pivotal discovery has already led to new technological innovations and gives us more insight into how we might emulate bird flight in our own flying machines.” Newswise recently published an article describing this discovery which you can see here.


Credit: (Image by Teresa Feo / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.)
Picture of a pigeon feather mounted for scanning in the beamline at the APS. The laser level shows approximately where the scan will be taken.