A new study about the dearth of headaches in woodpeckers builds on the research that earned the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize in ornithology. [The photo here shows Ivan Schwab, co-winner of that prize, delivering his acceptance speech.] The International Business Times gives its interpretation:
Football players and boxers suffer brain injuries, so why don’t woodpeckers? The leading cause of death in adult humans hardly gives a headache to birds that rapid-fire drill their beaks into hapless trees.
A new study entitled “Why Do Woodpeckers Resist Head Impact Injury: A Biomechanical Investigation” from a team of Chinese scientists sought to answer that question.
Their answer? Woodpeckers have a shock absorber system human heads lack. The birds also figured out the best angle to peck at hardened surfaces without becoming “bird brains”.
Researchers, led by Yubo Fan of Beihang University in Beijing and Ming Zhang of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, used synchronous high-speed video cameras to capture woodpeckers head-slamming into trees….
The scientists stumbled upon the research tract during a review of the literature of human head injuries, Fan said via email. A 1976 Lancet paper by the late Philip R.A. May of University of California Los Angeles, explored why woodpeckers don’t get headaches, an inspiration for the current study.
“We want to give our thanks to the late author May,” Fan said.
The research went on to win a 2006 Ig Nobel Prize, cheeky awards meant to foster humor and public understanding of science.