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Author Topic: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?  (Read 19050 times)

Offline neilep

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Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« on: 24/10/2004 21:14:14 »


Hi Everybody, this happy Woodpecker paid a visit to our garden a few weeks ago and decided to visit us again today ,clearly interested in the odd ant or twenty still scurrying around...but can a woodpecker expert tell me when why when this birdy friend decides to head-butt it's beak like crazy into a tree that it doesn't do some serious brain damage ?...is it just purely a case of extra 'suspension ' ?

I'll receive your answer with gratitude as long as you don't head butt me...thanks

'Men are the same as women...just inside out !'


 

Offline DrN

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #1 on: 25/10/2004 15:31:31 »
I'd never thought of that before. but I think woody woodpecker was a little insane.
 

Offline chris

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #2 on: 25/10/2004 17:46:04 »
In the late 70's, a study carried out by Philip May, Joaquin Fuster, Jochen Haber and Ada Hirschman, using high-speed photography (capable of taking 2000 frames a second), revealed that the impact deceleration when a woodpecker's beak slams into a surface can exceed one thousand times the force of gravity (1200g).

With repeated trauma of this magnitude it's surprising that the bird's head remains attached to its body, never mind developing brain damage. As an aside, the researchers did note from their photographs, however, that their study subject, a tame acorn woodpecker, did take the precaution of closing his eyes prior to each strike !

But there are a number of woodpecker-specific adaptations which make the practice of repeatedly slamming your head against a hard surface slightly more tolerable.

Firstly, woodpeckers have relatively small brains which, in contrast to a human, are packed fairly tightly inside their skull cavity. This prevents the excessive movement of the brain inside the skull which causes so-called 'contre-coup' injuries (literally brain bruising) in humans. These occur when the brain bashes into the skull following a knock on the head. In other words the head stops, but the brain keeps on moving.

Also, because the brain is small it has a high surface area to weight ratio, meaning that the impact force is spread over a much larger area, relatively speaking, compared with a human. Again, this minimises the applied trauma.

Finally, the woodpecker always ensures that he strikes his target in a dead straight line. This approach avoids placing rotational or sheering stresses on the nerve fibres in the brain. Humans involved in car accidents frequently develop the symptoms of 'diffuse axonal injury' where sudden deceleration coupled with rotation literally twists the different parts of the brain off each other like a lid coming off a jar. By hammering in a dead straight line woody woodpecker avoids giving himself DAI, further minimising the risk of brain damage. Such an approach may have implications for the design of protective head gear - such as crash helmets - which could be modified to prevent rotational injuries.

Unfortunately, we're just not adapted to beat our heads against walls, trees, or even paving slabs, with half the impunity of a woodpecker. Definitely a case of "don't try this at home".

Happy hammering.

Chris



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Offline neilep

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #3 on: 26/10/2004 18:19:51 »
Thanks Chris...I consider my woodpecker beak butting orientated question well and truly answered.
cheers


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Offline bigtim

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #4 on: 22/09/2006 21:43:44 »
quote:
Originally posted by chris

...force of gravity ...

Chris


I'm not trying 2 annoy people, but i am in a bad mood [V] thus if i try to point out insignificant incontinuities in peoples' post's then i feel better. I am sorry for using this topic as such a vent:

This is a common missconception. Gravity is not a force. The force is the product of mass and the strength of the gravitational filed, ie, the quotient of the ratio force/mass.


Big Tim
 

Offline ukmicky

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #5 on: 22/09/2006 22:15:55 »
Hi bigtim
Just a thought why dont you create your own topic and name it like errrrrrrrrrrrrr I know ...

Gravity is not a force ,this is a common missconception and then you wouldnt have to worry about annoying  anyone or have to paste the same thing over and over again in every topic on the forum .....

you may even get a few replies which you could discuss further :)  


Michael
 

Offline neilep

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #6 on: 22/09/2006 23:38:17 »
Well, I'm grateful to Bigtim for resurrecting this thread..cos it's one of mine !! :)

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Offline bigtim

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #7 on: 24/09/2006 11:18:32 »
quote:
Originally posted by ukmicky

Hi bigtim
Just a thought why dont you create your own topic and name it like errrrrrrrrrrrrr I know ...

Gravity is not a force ,this is a common missconception and then you wouldnt have to worry about annoying  anyone or have to paste the same thing over and over again in every topic on the forum .....

you may even get a few replies which you could discuss further :)  


Michael


That is a very good idea. I may do that. In fact, I'll do it now. Actually, I am quite cheesed off that i didn't think of doing it myself. It was getting frustrating copying and pasting the same thing.
Yes, I must admit, I am a bit of a novice on these forums, and indeed maybe even in my knowledge of science. Oh well, I do try.
TW

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #8 on: 24/09/2006 19:32:01 »
Well, now that you have the ' gravity ' of the situation I see that you have ' forced ' yourself to create your own thread !!



Still, it's nice piccy of a woodpecker don't you think...cripes it's almost two years ago to the day !!..I can't believe it !

Men are the same as women, just inside out !
« Last Edit: 24/09/2006 19:33:29 by neilep »
 

Offline Karen W.

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #9 on: 24/09/2006 21:42:32 »
It is a very good woodpecker picture!! a couple month ago I heard this very hard loud pounding and went in search of sound it was early in morning... I walked through the patio in front yard and up into the apple orchard and kept hearing it, so I followed my ears and came around behind the 2nd apple tree and was halted immediately by this very large woodpecker that just stopped pecking and tuned his head and looked me square in the face....! I was only about four feet from him, we just starred at each other for a moment , I didn't move... then he turned to the tree again and continued for about 5 more seconds, then looked at me again... resumed then stopped made a funny noise and released his footing and flew straight at me... Scared the heebeegiveees out of me, I thought he was going to start pecking me, I ducked down and ran like crazy into the house, then I felt foolish and laughed, but at that moment wasn't very funny, I can laugh now, but he did not like me being that close... quite funny really, and he did quite a number on my old apple tree!!all the way around it like a band... What is it they are after when they do that, is it bugs or what??

Karen
« Last Edit: 12/10/2007 00:30:53 by Karen W. »
 

Offline MayoFlyFarmer

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #10 on: 05/10/2006 06:07:52 »
i always though of the woodpecker as one of evolution's best examples of how if there is an empty nitche somewhere some creature will/has evolve(d) to fill it.  i really wish we could look back in evolutionbary history and see what the intermediate species that lead to the woodpecker.  i bet some of them got some awful headaches.

Are YOUR mice nude? ;)
 

Offline Karen W.

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #11 on: 05/10/2006 06:30:17 »
He almost gave me a headache!

Karen
 

Offline MayoFlyFarmer

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #12 on: 05/10/2006 06:33:02 »
ugh.  yes.... i know that feeling too!

Are YOUR mice nude? ;)
 

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #13 on: 10/10/2006 15:10:53 »
"  IgNobel prizes 2006

Ivan Schwab, of the University of California Davis, and the late Philip May, of the University of California Los Angeles, have won the ornithology prize for their pioneering work on the ability of the humble woodpecker to avoid head injury.

Wasmia Al-Houty, of Kuwait University, and Faten Al-Mussalam, of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, have taken home the nutrition prize for showing that dung beetles are in fact finicky eaters.

Francis Fesmire, of the University of Tennessee, has been awarded the medicine Ig for his report Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage.

Physics laureates Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of Paris University are to be honoured for their insights into why dry spaghetti tends to break into more than two pieces.

Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, has been awarded the peace prize for inventing an electromechanical teenager repellent.

The device makes an annoying noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults.

He later used the same technology to make telephone ringtones that are audible to teenagers but not to their teachers.

Three US scientists - Lynn Halpern, Randolph Blake and James Hillenbrand - have been awarded the acoustics prize for conducting experiments to learn why people dislike the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard.

While the conclusions of a group of scientists from Valencia University and the University of Illes Balears in Spain are not immediately clear, the judges have deemed their study Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature worthy of the chemistry prize.

Also honoured for cheese research, Bart Knols from Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands has won the biology award for his part in research showing that female malaria mosquito are equally attracted to limburger cheese and human feet.

The winners are given one minute to deliver their acceptance speech, with the time limit strictly policed by an outspoken eight-year-old girl.

The evening traditionally involves members of the audience throwing paper aeroplanes at the stage while Harvard Professor Roy Glauber dutifully sweeps up, as he has done for the past 10 years.

Professor Glauber insists on retaining his sweeping duties for the 16th annual ceremony this year, regardless of becoming a Nobel physics laureate last year.

Despite the ceremony's irreverent tone, the awards are taken increasingly seriously in the scientific community, with eight of the 10 winners this year paying their own way to attend the ceremony. "

http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/scitech/SciTechRepublish_1756891.htm
« Last Edit: 10/10/2006 15:11:20 by ROBERT »
 

another_someone

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #14 on: 10/10/2006 16:12:55 »
quote:
Originally posted by MayoFlyFarmer

i always though of the woodpecker as one of evolution's best examples of how if there is an empty nitche somewhere some creature will/has evolve(d) to fill it.  i really wish we could look back in evolutionbary history and see what the intermediate species that lead to the woodpecker.  i bet some of them got some awful headaches.



Many animals will use their head as a weapon - it just so happens that the woodpecker uses his as a drill.



George
 

Offline Hadrian

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Re: Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #15 on: 10/10/2006 16:38:34 »


What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
« Last Edit: 10/10/2006 16:46:09 by Hadrian »
 

Offline Alandriel

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Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #16 on: 09/10/2007 12:51:53 »
Digging this one back out since neil so nicely pointed my nose to it.  ;D

I'd never thought of looking in the Physiology forum.



As parallell universes go, the woodpecker question also puzzled me and the info in this thread (and the piccie of course) are really fab.


I'd like to share this link with you

***ack** it's not online yet from ngm.com ~ let me trans-scribe:



National Geographic 07/10 ~~ The Anatomy of painless Pecking

If we humans went around banging our heads against trees, nasty headaches, detached retinas and concussions could result. Hardly worth it for a mouthful of bugs. But woodpeckers are suited to the task, and doctors who study head trauma are trying to learn how the birds avoid injury. One study shows that woodpecker eyes are held tightly in place by bone and surrounding tissue, unlike human eyes, which have room to move around within the sockets. The bird has other adaptations (super diagram which sadly I can't include here).
But a question remains: do woodpeckers get headaches? There is no way to know, admits Ivan Schwab, an ophthalmologist at University of California. Davis, who studies woodpeckers as a hobby. Then again, he notes, animals usually avoid doing thins that hurt

- Helen Fields




 

Offline daveshorts

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Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #17 on: 09/10/2007 13:43:19 »
 

Offline Alandriel

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Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #18 on: 09/10/2007 14:39:34 »
Thanks Dave.  :)

Excellent link / article and I see neil's piccie got in there too. ;D

The National Geographic of October this year has the article I cited and also a really good drawing that shows how the wookpecker covers his eyes to protect them from harm as he hacks away.

Perhaps this will go live online next month and I can reference it here.
 

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Why don't woodpeckers get brain damage ?
« Reply #18 on: 09/10/2007 14:39:34 »

 

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