Monday, 18 November 2013

More dragon wings

These wings aren't finished yet.  I'm not happy with the texture.  If you look carefully at the next picture you can see that the surface of the wing membrane is covered with small round dimples, which don't look at all convincing or appropriate.  The wings have that unfortunate texture because I made them out of paper towels, which are absorbant but still able to hold their shape quite well when I saturate them with glue.

I always enjoy doing things like fins and wing membranes and hands.  I especially like doing fingers, because fingers are really interesting.  They have lots of fun little bones and they articulate in interesting ways.  On this project, I designed the wing structure to look like it was adapted from theropod forelimbs, like a bird's wings are.  Although the wings have membranes instead of feathers, they're modelled on the wing structurers of early avians like archaeopteryx.  That's why it has three fingers on each hand.

With this archaeopteryx, you can clearly see that it has fingers.  It has feathers growing out of the wrist and that’s basically the end of the wing.  In a modern bird, the “hand” bones fuse together to create the tip of the wing and the bird doesn’t have any digits as such.  The archaeopteryx has three digits and the reason for this is that archaeopteryx and its modern avian cousins evolved from theropods with three digits on the front limbs.

Picture courtesy of Scientific American.  Click on the link for a very interesting article discussing the possibility that archaeopteryx could be the ancestor of modern flightless birds.

Bats are a bit different.  They have membranes stretched between their finger bones, which forms the wing.

Picture from Brown University.  Click the link to see their robotic bat!

Pterosaurs were different again.  They used very long, well developed pinky fingers to support their wing membranes.

A great comparison of pterosaur wings, bat wings, and bird wings from the USA's National Centre for Science Education.

I’m going the pterosaur route here.  The first finger and thumb form a little “hand” for the dragon to grip things with, while the second finger is hugely enlarged and supports the wing membrane.