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Journal Article

Winds under the Rain Forest Canopy: The Aerodynamic Environment of Gliding Tree Frogs

Michael G. McCay
Biotropica
Vol. 35, No. 1 (Mar., 2003), pp. 94-102
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30043038
Page Count: 9

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Topics: Wind velocity, Forest canopy, Gliding, Wind, Gusts, Turbulence, Frogs, Trees, Tropical rain forests, Animals
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Winds under the Rain Forest Canopy: The Aerodynamic Environment of Gliding Tree Frogs
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Abstract

Movement of air under the canopy of a forest affects the gliding of animals such as frogs, snakes, geckos, and squirrels; the dispersal of pollen, seeds, and spores; as well as convective transport of heat and carbon dioxide. Wind speed profiles were measured under the canopy of a lowland rain forest during the morning, afternoon, and night at three sites in Costa Rica to determine the aerodynamic environment in which tree frogs maneuver while gliding. During the course of a day, average and maximum wind speeds were highest in the morning and midday, and lowest at night. Wind speeds under the canopy were highest near the top of the canopy and were lowest near the canopy floor in the morning and afternoon, and exhibited little variation with respect to height at night. Turbulence intensity (a common measure of gustiness) was constant (ca 1) for all times of day, heights in the canopy, and sites, but the absolute magnitudes of wind gust speeds were higher during the day than at night. Power spectral densities revealed that most of the variation in wind speeds occurred at frequencies that could potentially affect the gliding of tree frogs. Tree frogs (and many other gliding animals), however, glide at night and thereby avoid the higher wind speeds that occur by day. Computer simulations of the dynamic motions of frogs while gliding revealed that the night levels of wind gusts have little effect on the direction of gliding of tree frogs.

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