6
$\begingroup$

A rare design I have seen in fantasy games is a wyvern or humanoid being with hand like wings to fly The Pokemon Yveltal is a good example

I’m curious if this is in any way a practical design and the reason something like this would evolve over classic wyvern or bat wings which serve the same function; grip and flight. The fingers on these wings would have minimal articulation compared to bat wings and are considerably heavier in comparison, aswell as having less surface area. Almost all designs like this have very large claws at the end like a hand.

So what would cause a wing like this to evolve? Even if it wasn’t for flight.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Gotta wonder what helps shape the wings. But forget the featherfingers, what has happened to that tail? That's some crazy pentapodal bodyplan going on there. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Sep 9 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ What kind of 'fingers' are you thinking of here? Vestigial bone-spur-looking digits, fleshy appendages, hard and not very flexible like nails or enamel, or something prehensile like mammalian fingers? $\endgroup$ – Justin Alexander Sep 9 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Justin Alexander I would say more boney or cartilage-like, probably. $\endgroup$ – SentiCarter Sep 9 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Starfish Prime It actually curls up into a ball or egg and hibernates. Thats the only purpose I’ve seen for the tail being like that. $\endgroup$ – SentiCarter Sep 9 at 23:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @SentiCarter It's so that it looks like a Y, seeing as the game it comes from is Pokemon Y. It's counterpart, Xerneas, is supposed to look like an X. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Sep 9 at 23:50
6
$\begingroup$

Short answer is no, it's not a practical solution because the feet are already designed for gripping in most animals that fly, making clawed hands redundant (just take a look at how eagles and hawks hunt) and most importantly of all, the wings are in point of fact evolved hands that have been reshaped to provide maximum surface area on the wing through ultra long finger bones.

enter image description here

I've put a picture up here that shows the difference between a bat's wing and a bird's wing, but the important thing to note is that both have a 'normal' arm to the point where the wing starts to sweep back, and then the rest of the wing is supported by a strongly modified 'hand' that is better served to the flying creature by providing more surface area to the wing rather than as a grasping appendage.

In the case of birds in particular, they have evolved either beaks, bills or the like that are their primary way of grabbing food, or they have strong claws on their feet used to grab prey while they hunt. This is the offset they use to maximise their flying capacity by literally using a modified hand to almost double their wingspan in many cases.

Your creature is possible, but unlikely because having a clawed hand pretty much halves the span of wing that the creature can use, and perhaps even more importantly, requires the arms to be very muscular in order to use the claws, disrupting the flight model of the creature. Birds and Bats have well developed pectoral muscles (the breast muscle) to power the wing, but the wing itself is very light on with muscles, again to maximise the control surface of the wing, and minimise the mass that the pecs have to deal with. Your creature on the other hand would need strong biceps and triceps, disrupting the control surfaces of the wing and the ability of the bird to control it in real time.

So no, it's not practical and it's far more likely that your bird is going to want to use those hands to increase wingspan and rely on its mouth and feet to grab prey or opponents in flight.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think it's also important to note that wings often evolve from (and away from) normal fingers and arms. And like you said, wings are particularly suited to a particular task: agility, hovering (like a hummingbird), aquatic maneuvering, etc. This typically precludes the possibility of any evolution of this kind, and of other things that would allow for a hand or fingers. $\endgroup$ – Justin Alexander Sep 10 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ I guess you could imagine a hummingbird-esque creature with a system of long and stupidly complex tendons controlling the fingers for greater flight surface control (and by association gripping ability). It’s a lot of complexity for a very small result though. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 10 at 7:59
4
$\begingroup$

If the creature in question descend from Pterosauria it is plausible it has been carried on.

As you can see from this comparison,

Pterosaur skeleton

only one "finger" is used to keep the wing membrane in tension, while the other fingers can be used for some other purposes.

However note that if the animal is specialized in flight, the remaining mobility/strength for accomplishing other tasks with the fingers might be very limited.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Intelligence after flight.

Manipulation of tools is pretty necessary for an intelligent civilization, and one of the best parts of civilization is tools. That's stuff like microwaves, hammers, tongs, chairs, everything that's artificially made for a specific purpose. Tools are nice things.

And the more precise you can make a tool, the better. And precision requires the ability to be precise, which usually is redundant, but here I'm making a point - bird legs aren't precise enough for precision. They possess the power to claw things and land on branches, but let's say you wanted to do something else - like shape a clay bowl, or perhaps thread some reeds. It's not inconceivable to say that a bird species would develop their wings to do it, which wouldn't be crazy, considering that wings and arms are from the same origin point.

Evolution, as far as we can tell (and thus the way the theory goes) tends to work on what exists, rather than create something new. To solve the problem of manipulation, birds will slowly develop finer wingtip control, rather than mutate a new set of arms. At a guess, I'd say that these wing-finger things would develop as a bone structure in the edge, with flaps of skin to connect them together, such that it could be manipulated, but keep the continuous surface for flying.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Bat wings with tiny hands at the edges... How very creepy. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 10 at 8:00
2
$\begingroup$

This question reminded me of the avian crocodylomorph.

Avian Crocodylomorph

I proposed a water creature that developed flight in the manner of a flying fish.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_fish flying fish

The flying fish lives in the water and because of its wings, can spend some time in the air. It cannot grab anything because there is nothing to grab.

The proposed avian crocodylomorph lives in mangrove swamps and so would often find its flight ending in a tree. There is a lot to eat in mangrove trees, and if it could grab hold and maneuver with its wings, it could catch and eat crabs, snails and bugs Its wing evolves the ability to grip with its ends.

Also it gets a prehensile tail!

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This isn’t so much flying as gliding, but I like the unique approach to the answer. A glide-not-fly creature answers many of the challenges raised in L.Dutch’s and Tim B’s answers. $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Sep 13 at 13:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.