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How wingless salamanders fly: Nature News & Views

Colleagues at the University of South Florida and Berkeley made an exciting finding: wingless salamanders living in the crowns of old growth red wood trees perform directed aerial descent, featured in NYT. To highlight the remarkable find, I wrote a Nature News & Views feature to explain how their work helps paint the bigger picture of the evolution of flight. Over the years more and more research, including our own on foraging birds, show how generating drag first and lift second is a mechanistically more plausible explanation for the evolution of flight. Lacking wings, the salamanders must rely on using their body to generate drag to balance their weight and slow down while also generating a bit of lift, which enables them to steer and direct their aerial descent back to the tree.