Flamingos expend less energy standing on one leg than in a two-legged stance, scientists have confirmed.
It may be their signature pose, but how and why the birds perch on one limb has been a longstanding puzzle.
Now, a team from the US has shown that flamingos employ no active muscular effort when they’re unipedal, meaning they are also expending less energy.
A passive mechanism is engaged in the one-legged position, allowing flamingos to stand proud while having a doze.
Previously, researchers had wondered whether the one-legged position might help reduce muscle fatigue, as the birds alternated from standing on one leg to the other.
Other teams have proposed that this behaviour helps regulate body temperature.
Now, Prof Young-Hui Chang, from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, and Lena H Ting, of Atlanta’s Emory University, have uncovered the mechanical secrets behind this impressive trick.
The researchers conducted several experiments with both live and dead birds. Amazingly, they found that flamingo cadavers could be made to stand one-legged without any external support.
They describe this phenomenon, as a “passive gravitational stay mechanism”.