A Centaur’s Life– Angelfolk and Imps
As promised, here is the first in my series on the monster girls of A Centuar’s Life, and we are going to start off with the winged humans, the Angelfolk (Manami Mitama) and Imps (Kyoko). I realize that I said that Angelfolk and Imps were different species in a previous post, but they share enough commonalities that it makes sense to combine them. That commonality just so happens to be their shared trait of having wings in addition to arms and legs.
Can They Fly?
The wings of both species originate from the middle of their back and we never see members of either species taking flight with their wings in the anime/manga. Nor do they ever discuss flying, so it seems safe to assume that Angelfolk and Imps cannot fly, but could they actually fly? This makes biological sense since their wings are nowhere near big enough to allow them to fly; glide or slow a fall maybe, but never fly. The heaviest flying bird is the Kori bustard, native to Africa and the males can be 4’11 tall, weigh 44 pounds, and have a wing span of 9 feet. Thus, it’s easy to think that Manami Mitama would need wings bigger than they are in order to fly.
The second consideration is that even if the wings were the correct size, their location on the body prevents them from having enough force to enable flight. The reason is actually quite simple: the wings are located on the back in a location that doesn’t allow for the main muscles of flight to work.
As a bird flaps its wings lift and thrust are generated during the downward stroke driven by the pectoralis major, which is attached to the wing and to the sternum. If the wings are located on the back, this muscle system cannot function. Additionally, I cannot think of any other muscles that could replace the pectoralis major. In this way I can say it is confirmed that Angelfolk and Imps cannot fly as seen in the anime/manga.
In fact, for as much as I didn’t like the show Daily Lives with Monster Girls (I couldn’t get past the first 6 minutes) the harpy Papi is the only anime girl with wings that I have seen that gets it right.
In this case her wings are attached to her arms allowing them to be moved using the same muscle system as described in the video above, using the pectoralis major. If I had one issue with Papi, it is that her chest isn’t big enough, and no it’s not what you are thinking. The pectoralis major, which drives flight, attaches to the sternum. The bigger the sternum is, the larger the pectoralis major can be, since there is more surface area for the muscle to attach to. In birds the sternum has a keel shaped extension sticking out from it allowing for a much larger pectoralis major as seen below.
Thus, Papi’s upper body should be thicker than it is in the anime/manga, due to the larger pectoralis major, but the rest of her wings are adapted to flight.
What are Manami’s wings used for then?
If the wings aren’t used for flight, then what are they used for? In evolutionary terms, the wings would have to give a benefit to survival or to reproduction, otherwise why would Angelfolk and Imps still have them? The anime does not give a definitive answer to this question beyond an offhand remark, that they are warm, when a friend of Manami Mitama hides under them on a cold day. There are a couple of things wrong with this.
The first one is that heat is spread around the body by the flow of blood, and fat helps to retain heat, but bird wings do not have much of either one. Wings need to be light weight and do not contain a lot of tissue, so the blood flow is minimal, and the amount of fat is minimal as well, to make it easier to flap the wing. Do keep in mind I am talking about the wings of a wild flying bird and not chicken wings, which were bred for human consumption.
The second is that when animals are trying to conserve heat, they will restrict blood flow to their extremities, so in the cold weather Manami’s wings would receive less blood flow than usual, and end up being a little colder than the rest of her body.
Thirdly, I know that down feathers help to keep birds warm, but the only part of the body that Manami Mitama has feathers on are her wings, which appear to be flight feathers. Flight feathers are found on the wings of birds and are used for flying, not for staying warm. Also, I know that Imps do not have feathers, but the way they fly would be the same, as would their issues with using the wings to stay warm. So the idea that Manami’s or Kyoko’s wings are a way for them to stay warm is busted.
Other uses of the wings
If the wings are not used for flying or staying warm, what are they used for? The first and most logical possibility is that they are vestigial and will slowly shrink over many generations until future Angelfolk and Imps have only vestigial remnants of wings on their backs. The second is that the wings are involved with mating. While there is much we do not know about dinosaur mating, which makes talking about Kyoko’s wings difficult, it is a different story for birds and Manami Mitama.
Birds have a wide range of mating behaviors, which can include bright coloration and dancing. I know some of you are already saying that all of the Angelfolk wings we see are white. That is true, but what you might not have known is that birds can see in the near ultraviolet light spectrum, which our human eyes cannot. What this means is that while Manami’s wings might appear white and boring to us, they could in fact be very interesting to people who can see using ultraviolet light.
At the current time to my knowledge scientists do not know the visual range of dinosaurs, so I have no way of knowing if the above would also apply to Kyoko.
I’ve got nothing on this one, ladies and gentlemen, I have no idea how a halo of hair could form naturally without copious amounts of hairspray and/or superglue.
There is one final Angelfolk/Imp trait that I would like to explore, but it is not one that is mentioned in the anime or manga, and that is their weight. Yes, I know that you should never ask a girl’s weight, but I have a very good reason for it. Birds and the flying dinosaurs have hollow bones and air sacs that help to reduce the overall weight of the organism. Given the close evolutionary relationship between Angelfolk/Imp and birds/flying dinosaurs, it is not a large leap to think that Manami Mitama would share this trait. That means that Manami Mitama would weigh less than their classmates of similar size and even some of their smaller classmates.
Birds can fly, which means that they are often found at higher altitudes, including some species crossing Mount Everest. Thus, if we keep going with the assumption that Angelfolk evolved from birds, then Manami Mitama should be better adapted to live at high altitude. This is due to the unique arrangement of the respiratory system of birds.
Through the use of air sacs, air passes through the bird’s respiratory system in one direction, meaning that all of the air that is inhaled completely passes through the system, and is then completely exhaled. This improves the bird’s ability to extract oxygen from the air even at high altitude, because no waste air is left in the system.
The Angelfolk and Imps have a number of interesting traits, but it’s clear that the ability to fly is not one of them and it’s nice to see A Centaur’s Life actually leave this one out. I hope you enjoyed this run through of the biology behind Angelfolk and Imps in A Centaur’s life. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below.