Always have wings? Mother Nature begs to differ! A surprisingly varied group of animal species have evolved the ability to glide, parachute and even fly through the air with the greatest of ease. These 7 amazing wingless flying animals take to the sky like a fish out of water… and yes, one of them really IS a fish out of water.
Spiders can’t fly, a fact that certainly brings cheer to most of us. Don’t get too comfortable, however, as spiders worldwide have come up with an ingenious and effective manner of traveling long distances by air. It’s called “ballooning” and it’s pretty much what one might imagine: spiders exude silken draglines that catch the wind; the wind returns the favor by catching the spider and lifting it aloft over often appreciable distances.
(image via: BugBlog)
While the vast majority of ballooning spiders are both very young and very small, adult Money Spiders (above) have been known to utilize this unusual method of relocation to, er, relocate. And you thought “money” falling from the sky was a GOOD thing!
(images via: The Blaze/AFP)
Several species of squid including the Pacific Flying Squid (Todarodes pacificus) and the Neon Flying Squid (Ommastrephes bartramii) have been observed moving through the air, singly or in groups, at distances of as much as 30 meters or nearly 100 feet! Some have even landed on passing boats; unintentionally, of course.
(images via: BU)
It’s thought that these squid take to the air for the same reasons Flying Fish do: it’s a stealthy and unexpected way to escape from non-flying, seaborne predators. So-called “flying squid” shoot out from the water using their siphons to expel water from their bodies – some have done this while in “flight”… natural jet propulsion as it were! In addition, scientists have observed these squid seemingly adjusting their mantle fins in midair to control their direction.
Two families of tree frogs, the Old World Rhacophoridae and the New World Hylidae have independently evolved gliding techniques by adjusting their body morphology. These tree-dwelling frogs sport large but thin membranes between the toes of all four feet that are used to cushion the air. Using their webby wings in conjunction with flattening their bodies, the frogs can glide short distances – quite useful when the nearest tree is more than a hop, skip and jump away.
(image via: Fine Art America)
One of the most accomplished flying frogs is the Chinese Gliding Frog (Polypedates dennysi, above), which is able to adjust the curve of its flight path during the course of a glide. This amphibian has managed to strike a balance between being able to glide when necessary and retaining the ability to hop on land and swim in water. Natural multitasking at its finest!