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Why don’t Woodpeckers get a headache?

March 6, 2012

This article was originally published here by How It Works in 2011.

Because they get plenty of sleep, and don’t stare at their laptops for more than an hour a day…..

Otherwise, it’s a triumph of adaptation involving muscles, bones, physics and brains. Firstly, they’re a sure shot – the angle of impact is all important, and woodpeckers always deliver a blow ‘straight-on’, greatly reducing the stress caused. Woodpecker’s bills (beaks) are ‘reinforced’ and particularly strongly built, with a thick, horn-like covering, and a specially-adapted hinge to the skull, further reducing the effects of impact.

juvenile Green Woodpecker

juvenile Green Woodpecker (Mark Pearson)

Their skulls consist of a spongy yet extremely strong bone, which help cushion and protect their brains from the effect of the blows. Woodpecker’s brains are also specially adapted – where we would suffer trauma as our brain ‘rattles around’ in cerebral spinal fluid, a woodpecker’s has virtually none, and with the brain being so small (proportionately as well as actually!), the force of each impact is spread over a much greater area.

To aid this further, specialised muscles in the bird’s neck are like highly evolved shock absorbers, distributing the effects of impact throughout the body. And then there’s the specially adapted eyelids and nostrils….

Mark James Pearson

All words and pictures – copyright Mark James Pearson 2012



























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