Why don’t woodpeckers get brain damage? Researchers have a new hypothesis – NRK Trøndelag

Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage?  Researchers have a new hypothesis - NRK Trøndelag

This has been a bit of a mystery. At least researchers have long wondered how woodpeckers can repeatedly throw their heads into tree trunks without harming the brain.

The most famous theory was those skulls They act as shock absorbent helmets.

But now a new study refutes this.

Researchers believe that the small heads act rather as hard hammers, and that the shock-absorbing effect will have obstructed The ability of the bird to choose.

With the help of video analytics, they also believe they’ve found the answer to why young minds don’t break in powerful shocks.

The new study has been published in the journal Current Biology.

severe concussion

When a woodpecker’s beak hits a tree trunk, the bird’s skulls are subjected to a force 1,000 times greater than gravity.

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If this happened to us, we would at best end up with a severe concussion.

In one second, some woodpeckers can cut 20 times. So it’s easy to imagine that this would have consequences.

But no, the researchers say.

Although the head Not It acts as a shock absorber, and cutting does not have serious consequences.

Brains are too small to handle it.

– He broke a legend

The researchers in the new study analyzed the videos at high speed. Here they have studied three different species of woodpecker.

Then use the data to build biomechanics Models. Using these, the researchers concluded that the shock-absorbing effect would be detrimental to the birds.

Sam Van Wasenberg led the study. The new findings are believed to help debunk old “myths”.

– When I visited zoos and photographed woodpeckers, I often heard people explaining to each other Woodpeckers don’t get headaches because they have shock absorbers inside their heads. This has been mentioned in books and the media. The researcher says.

This myth is now shattered by our findings, Van Wasenberg continues.

White-breasted woodpecker

The researchers looked at three different species of woodpecker in their study. One of them was a white-breasted woodpecker,


The second was a woodpecker, and the third species they studied was …

Black woodpeckers at Tømmerholtdammen in Estenstadmarka

Black woodpecker.

Eligible guesses

Sverre Lundemo works for the WWF’s World Wide Fund for Nature and is an expert on woodpeckers. mean It is exciting that the study challenges existing knowledge.

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– DrThere are a number of assumptions about how woodpeckers have adapted to this, which seem to have been qualified guesses so far, but have not been investigated in practice, he tells NRK.

Lundymo's ambassador

Ambassador Lundimo is the Senior Biodiversity Adviser at the WWF’s World Wide Fund for Nature. He now works as Head of Rural Environment.

Photo: Gunhild Hjermundrud / NRK

However, he believes that the new research does not come up with many new answers.

The study doesn’t get us very close to why woodpeckers are able to withstand such force – although they believe this disproves the hypothesis that parts of the force from woodpeckers are absorbed per degree.

On the other hand, Lundemo thinks it’s a good idea to research the topic.

– You know, among other things, that woodpeckers are seen To develop helmets and other materials that need to handle strength. Nature has developed innovative solutions to a number of problems over tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of years, and this has inspired a large number of disciplines in different ways.

In this sense, it also makes sense to consider how woodpeckers hit the ground with such force, the expert explains.

Woodpecker on a tree trunk

Woodpecker in full swing on a tree trunk. It is the only one of our woodpeckers that feeds mostly on coniferous seeds in winter, while others eat insects all year round.

Photo: Justin Helevick

Easy to recognize

Wherever you are in the world, it is easy to identify a woodpecker. They have a number of common characteristics:

Their short, strong feet enable them to grasp and climb tree trunks. The stiffness of the tail feathers that support the bird while climbing. And strong, pointed beaks to choose from.

The three species observed in the study are the woodpecker, the black-breasted woodpecker and the North American white-breasted black woodpecker.

From an evolutionary standpoint, Sam Van Wassenbergh says, the study results may explain why woodpeckers don’t have much larger head and neck muscles.

Larger woodpeckers can chop, and then possibly concussion. The researcher explains that it may have led to problems.

More will Van Wassenbergh and colleagues discovered the importance and shape of the beak in chopping.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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