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Woodpeckers don’t have inbuilt shock-absorbers of their head as previously thought, study says


Woodpecker skulls don’t act like shock-absorbing helmets as previously thought, in keeping with a latest study that implies their heads are more like stiff hammers.

Scientists have long sought to grasp how woodpeckers repeatedly pound their beaks against tree trunks without damaging their very own brains.

Earlier studies theorised the skulls have to be acting like shock-absorbing helmets.

Nevertheless, latest research, published on Thursday within the journal Current Biology, refutes this notion, saying that their heads act more like stiff hammers.

Scientists, including those from the University of Antwerp in Belgium calculate that any shock absorbance from the skull would actually hinder the woodpeckers’ pecking abilities.

“By analysing high-speed videos of three species of woodpeckers, we found that woodpeckers don’t absorb the shock of the impact with the tree,” Sam Van Wassenbergh, lead writer of the study, said.

Within the study, researchers quantified the impact decelerations during pecking in three woodpecker species.

They built biomechanical models which revealed that any shock absorbance of the skull could be disadvantageous for the birds.

Contrary to previous findings, researchers say while the deceleration shock with each peck exceeds the known threshold for a concussion in monkeys and humans, the birds’ smaller brains can withstand it.

The same old pecking of woodpeckers on tree trunks, in keeping with scientists, is well below the edge to cause a concussion, even without their skulls acting as protective helmets.

“The absence of shock absorption doesn’t mean their brains are in peril throughout the seemingly violent impacts,” Dr Van Wassenbergh said.

“Even the strongest shocks from the over 100 pecks that were analysed should still be protected for the woodpeckers’ brains as our calculations showed brain loadings which might be lower than that of humans suffering a concussion,” he added.

From an evolutionary perspective, scientists speculate that the findings may explain why there aren’t woodpeckers with much larger heads and neck muscles.

While a bigger woodpecker could potentially deliver more powerful pecks, they are saying concussions likely would cause them major problems.

“While filming the woodpeckers in zoos, I actually have witnessed parents explaining to their kids that woodpeckers don’t get headaches because they’ve shock absorber built into their head. This myth of shock absorption in woodpeckers is now busted by our findings,” Dr Van Wassenbergh said.

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