• Question: if people had feathers would they be able to fly?

    Asked by tomm69 to Andy on 23 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Andy MacLeod

      Andy MacLeod answered on 23 Jun 2011:

      I don’t think so. But I wouldn’t want to try it 🙂

      Hi tomm69. Our ancestors’s bodies evolved to live in the trees, so while we might be good at climbing up stuff, we’re not built to fly. You’d need a whole different body structure to be able to do that on your own.

      Some of our fellow mammals can manage it. Bats are probably the best known, and there are others who “glide” rather than flying. But none of these creatures have feathers, they use with flaps of skin stretched out between their arms. Sort of like a hang-glider. They didn’t evolve feathers.

      Feathers are unique to birds among the animals alive today. They are even more distant cousins to us than bats and flying mammals and evolved along a totally different path. There’s some evidence that there were feathered dinosaurs in the past, and they are related to todays birds. But without the underlying structures – the wings – feathers alone wouldn’t do much good in helping us fly.

      Feathers aren’t just used to fly. Birds use them for insulation too. If you’ve ever worn a down jacket or slept in a down mattress or sleeping bag, you’d know how warm they can be. 🙂