Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Head Trauma?
Scientists say Unique Adaptations Let These Birds Avoid Injuries While Repeatedly Pounding Their Heads Against Trees
by Tabitha Boyd age 14
If humans searched for food in the way woodpeckers do, it
would likely cause headaches, head injuries like concussions, or even
Scientists studying head traumas have tried to find
out how woodpeckers are able to avoid brain damage after repeatedly
banging their heads against trees for looking for food.
Woodpecker’s bodies are made for this kind of lifestyle. Their
extremely muscular necks absorb the impact of repetitively hitting wood.
And their brains weigh only about a fraction of an ounce, so hitting
the wood is less harmful to them than it would be to humans.
Woodpeckers also wrap their lengthy tongues around their skulls
to hold them down while pecking through the wood. This helps keep the
brain from colliding with the skull. Woodpeckers have a special membrane
that protects their eyes from flying woodchips.
Still, scientists aren't sure if woodpeckers get headaches from pecking.
As a hobby, Ivan Schwab, a researcher at the University of
California-Davis, studies woodpeckers. According to Schwab, there is no
way to know for sure, but it's reasonable to expect that woodpeckers
would avoid self-injury. In other words, if pecking resulted in
headaches, woodpeckers would probably avoid it.
[Source: National Geographic]