Date of Award

December 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

Committee Member

Richard W Blob

Committee Member

Samantha A Price

Committee Member

Miriam A Ashley-Ross

Committee Member

John D DesJardins


Vertebrates exhibit a diverse range of locomotor modes and associated morphological structures. Although many vertebrates can be classified as using distinct aquatic or terrestrial locomotor behaviors, several species use a terrestrial mode of locomotion while only partly submerged in aquatic environments, a behavior called wading. Wading can be observed in a variety of taxa including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Although there are over 100 species of wading birds, quantitative measurements of avian wading kinematics have not been performed. To address the lack of comparative studies on avian wading kinematics, video footage of Phoenicopterus chilensis (Chilean flamingo) was collected and analyzed for several kinematic variables during walking on land and wading through increasing depths of water. Step height increased as water depth increased, indicating exaggerated hindlimb movements in deeper waters. Minimum ankle angle, and tibiotarsal angle to the horizontal, decreased in deep waters, indicating greater folding together of the tibiotarsus and tarsometatarsus that likely reduced drag induced by contact between water and the limb. In addition, the minimum angle of the head and the minimum distance between the head and body both increased with increasing water depth, potentially reflecting changes in mass distribution allowed by the increased buoyancy afforded by deeper water. These results demonstrate that wading birds make several kinematic adjustments as they move through increasing depths of water, potentially helping them accommodate changes in both drag and buoyancy across habitat gradients.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.