Sunday, August 14, 2022
News

Do you know woodpeckers' heads act more like stiff hammers than safety helmets? Study reveals

   SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend    Print this Page   COMMENT

Washington | July 21, 2022 12:56:25 PM IST
For years, researchers have questioned how woodpeckers can repeatedly strike tree trunks with their beaks without suffering brain damage. This gave rise to the hypothesis that their skulls must serve as shock-absorbing helmets. Researchers dispute this idea, claiming that their skulls behave more like stiff hammers. In fact, their findings revealed that any stress absorption would interfere with the woodpeckers' pecking capabilities.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Cell Press.

"By analyzing high-speed videos of three species of woodpeckers, we found that woodpeckers do not absorb the shock of the impact with the tree," says Sam Van Wassenbergh of Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium.

Van Wassenbergh and colleagues first quantified the impact decelerations during pecking in three woodpecker species. They used the data to build biomechanical models, which led them to the conclusion that any shock absorbance of the skull would be disadvantageous for the birds.

But if their skulls don't act as shock absorbers, does the furious pecking put their brains at risk? It turns out that it doesn't. While the deceleration shock with each peck exceeds the known threshold for a concussion in monkeys and humans, the woodpeckers' smaller brains can withstand it. Van Wassenbergh says that woodpeckers could make a mistake, for instance if they were to peck on metal at full power. But their usual pecking on tree trunks is generally well below the threshold to cause a concussion, even without their skulls acting as protective helmets.

"The absence of shock absorption does not mean their brains are in danger during the seemingly violent impacts," says Van Wassenbergh. "Even the strongest shocks from the over 100 pecks that were analyzed should still be safe for the woodpeckers' brains as our calculations showed brain loadings that are lower than that of humans suffering a concussion."

The findings refute the long-held theory of shock absorption, which has been popularized in the media, books, zoos, and more, says Van Wassenbergh. "While filming the woodpeckers in zoos, I have witnessed parents explaining to their kids that woodpeckers don't get headaches because they have shock absorber built into their head," he says. "This myth of shock absorption in woodpeckers is now busted by our findings."

From an evolutionary point of view, he says the findings may explain why there aren't woodpeckers with much larger heads and neck muscles. While a larger woodpecker could deliver more powerful pecks, concussions likely would cause them major problems.

The findings also have some practical implications, he adds, given that engineers have previously used the anatomy of the woodpecker's cranial skeleton as a source of inspiration for the development of shock-absorbing materials and helmets. The new findings show that's not such a good idea, given that woodpecker anatomy minimizes shock absorption.

Van Wassenbergh notes that another recent study by his team showed that woodpeckers' beaks often get stuck, but the birds free themselves quickly by alternating movement of the upper and lower halves of their beaks. They're now studying how beak shape is adapted for pecking. (ANI)

 
  LATEST COMMENTS (0)
POST YOUR COMMENT
Comments Not Available
 
POST YOUR COMMENT
 
 
TRENDING TOPICS
 
 
CITY NEWS
MORE CITIES
 
 
 
MORE SCIENCE NEWS
S.Korea's largest internet giant raided ...
Scientists use mathematical modelling to...
Researchers reveal evidence of continent...
Study: Behavioural disorders can be cure...
Elon Musk's Space X launches Falcon 9 ro...
Can sunlight remove scratches from a car...
More...
 
INDIA WORLD ASIA
Delhi Police unearths key link of drug n...
Pakistan's warship PNS Taimur to partici...
I-Day: Delhi dips in patriotic ardour, t...
In Lakshadweep, chicken, meat regularly ...
Ashwini Vaishnaw 'flags in' RPF bike ral...
India at 75: Our foreign policy has move...
More...    
 
 Top Stories
Union Minister Jitendra Singh launc... 
Baloch group targets Pakistani army... 
How Raju Srivastava climbed ladder ... 
Study finds new approach control pa... 
Har Ghar Tiranga: National flag hoi... 
Salman Rushdie taken off ventilator... 
Tamil Nadu: BJP Madurai district pr... 
President Droupadi Murmu to address...