The evolution of different strategies for agile flight

A wide diversity of wing shapes has evolved, but how is aerodynamic strategy coupled to morphological variation? Here we examine how wing shape has evolved across a phylogenetic split between hawkmoths (Sphingidae) and wild silkmoths (Saturniidae), which have divergent life histories, but agile flight behaviors. We use measurements of both wing morphology and movement to find that these diverse sister families have evolved two distinct strategies for agile flight. Each group has evolved distinct wing shapes in phylogenetic PCA-space. The notoriously agile hawkmoths have not evolved wing shapes typical of maneuverability, but rather ones that reduce power. Instead their wing movement favors maneuverability, primarily through higher wingbeat frequency. In contrast, silkmoths evolved maneuverable wing shapes and use kinematics that reduce power. Therefore, multiple strategies have evolved to achieve similar aerodynamic performance. We suggest flapping wings provide flexible aerodynamics through kinematics and might release morphological constraints, enabling the diversity of wing shapes across extant flyers.