Scientists in Malaysia have strapped high-tech backpacks onto flying lemurs, humans’ closest cousins, to help understand the aerodynamics of how these nifty little creatures glide through the air. The flying lemurs aren’t actually lemurs, so from now on we’re going to refer to them by their mother’s maiden name, colugos. The scientists also didn’t “strap” the backpacks on the colugos, they attached them with adhesive, so from now on we’re going to say that they were “glued” on.
Domo Arigato, Mr. Colugo
The backpacks use an accelerometer and a memory chip to track the colugos’ movements in 3-D. This is key to understanding the creatures’ flying behavior, which in turn might help aeronautical engineers. According to the glued on backpacks, colugos can glide at a constant speed and then slow down drastically moments before landing, a trick that could be very useful for human flying devices as well.
Andrew Spence, one of the lead scientists on the study, told the Telegraph, “Despite being common throughout their natural range, the Malayan colugo is quite poorly understood because it’s hard to measure things about an animal that moves around at night, lives 30 metres up a tree, and can glide 100 metres away from you in an arbitrary direction in 10 seconds.” Sounds like an excuse to glue electronics on a helpless little creature to us.
He goes on to explain that if a colugo affixed with one of his backpacks glides away from the test area, he can press a button on a remote control, causing the backpack to explode along with the rogue colugo, a technique he calls “makin’ it rain.”