Woodpeckers Teach Scientists

2014-1215 WoodpeckerThe following information comes to us from a post on the Voice of America blog.

Sounding like a miniature jackhammer in overdrive, a quiet morning’s peace is suddenly interrupted by bursts of loud, rapid tapping.  It doesn’t take long to realize the intense and precise tapping is the sound of a woodpecker using its beak to search for food or build its nest.

Some ornithologists (scientists who study birds) estimate that a woodpecker can peck at a tree at speeds of up to 20 pecks per second or 1,200 per minute. Scientists say that a woodpecker’s brain is able to withstand g-forces of 1,200 G’s from the repeated impacts and deceleration brought on by this rapid pecking.

That’s a lot of physical stress for any living creature to bear.  Yet, for woodpeckers, it’s a necessity for survival.

Did you ever wonder how these hardy little birds are able to endure this seemingly punishing routine day after day without injuring themselves?

Chinese scientists thought studying how a woodpecker can regularly tolerate such severe physical impact may also provide some insight into what it would take to protect our bodies from harm that’s caused by shock and vibrations due to high-velocity impacts, such as an automobile accident.

The research team, led by Wu Chengwei at the Dalian University of Technology in northeastern China, decided the best way to learn how a woodpecker’s body can function as an anti-shock structure was to build a cutting-edge, high-precision 3D model of the bird.

Click here to read the complete article.


Click here to read another Beyond Injury post.

Thank you to Professor Wu and his colleagues who outlined their findings in a study that was recently published in the Beijing-based journal Science China; Voice of America for dedicating its resources to sharing the story; Google for helping me find the summary; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.

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