Along with finding solutions for the global hunger and water crises, climate change, and global financial inequity, researchers are hard at work finding out why flamingos only stand on one leg! This age-old question has been perplexing humans, and now we may be one step closer to solving this dumbfounding mystery. A team of researchers from Atlanta, Georgia claim that the one-legged balancing act is used to conserve energy. The famous flamingo pose is a passive stance which requires no active muscular energy, which means they use less energy.
Professor Young-Hui Chang and Lena H Ting performed several experiments that involved live and deceased flamingos to uncover the mechanism behind the famous stance. One of the funniest observations made was that a dead flamingo can be positioned to stand on one-leg without any external support, but fails to remain upright when placed on two-legs.
That’s because when you observe a flamingo from the front you can see that the foot it is standing on is directly underneath the body, meaning that the leg is bent inwards to maintain the posture. Behavioural observations of live flamingos showed that they often stayed perfectly still in this position and in fact were in a restful state.
While it is still unclear what the anatomical mechanism is for this posture, Chang has said that it does not involve any locking of joints. In an interview with BBC he said, “A lock would imply that it’s fixed in both directions. What we found is that it’s fixed in one direction, but flexible in the other direction, so we call it a ‘stay’ rather than a ‘lock’. It’s more akin to a doorstop.”
However there are still conflicting hypotheses as to why flamingos stand one leg rather than two. Dr. Matthew Anderson, an experimental psychologist who has worked with Chang and Ting in the past, thinks that this behaviour is used to conserve heat.
Well damn, it’s still a mystery! Okay, let’s all take a break from our existential pondering of the nature of our existence, and devote all of our neural energy into figuring out WHY these friggin’ birds only stand on one leg! Who’s with me?!?