Interesting Science Question: Why Don't Woodpeckers get Concussions?
by Andrew Liu, age 15
Woodpeckers do a lot of work for what seems like a small amount of food. Scientists studying head traumas are trying to find out how they avoid brain damage after repeatedly banging their heads against trees to get food.
If humans did that, they would probably get headaches, possibly a concussion, or even a broken nose.
The woodpecker, on the other hand, is well-suited for this type of activity. Its extremely strong neck muscles absorb the energy caused by hitting wood. Its brain weighs only a fraction of an ounce, and it doesn’t collide with the skull like a human’s would. The woodpecker’s long tongue wraps around its skull and holds it down during pecking and its eyes are protected by a special membrane that keeps wood chips out.
But scientists still aren’t sure if woodpeckers get headaches from pecking. Ivan Schwab, a researcher at the University of California-Davis, studies woodpeckers as a hobby. He says there is no way to know for sure – but it’s reasonable to expect that woodpeckers would avoid self- injury. If this assumption is true it means that if pecking resulted in headaches, woodpeckers probably wouldn’t do it.
[Source: National Geographic]