1 Tahrcountry Musings: The mystery of how woodpeckers avoid head injuries cracked

Friday, October 28, 2011

The mystery of how woodpeckers avoid head injuries cracked

Why Do Woodpeckers Resist Head Impact Injury: A Biomechanical Investigation

Lizhen Wang, Jason Tak-Man Cheung, Fang Pu, Deyu Li, Ming Zhang, Yubo Fan

PLoS ONE 6(10): e26490. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026490

Woodpeckers peck tree trunks at speeds of six to seven meters a second, dozens of times a minute. How they avoid head injury has remained a mystery till now. A team of bioengineers from School of Biological Science and Medical Engineering, Beihang University, Beijing, Department of Health Technology and Informatics, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Li Ning Sports Science Research Center, Beijing has solved it
Two synchronous high-speed video systems were used to observe the pecking process, and a force sensor was used to measure the peck force. The mechanical properties and macro/micro morphological structure in woodpecker's head were investigated using a mechanical testing system and micro-CT scanning. Finite element (FE) models of the woodpecker's head were established to study the dynamic intracranial responses.
 The result showed that macro/micro morphology of cranial bone and beak can be recognized as a major contributor to non-impact-injuries. This biomechanical analysis makes it possible to visualize events during woodpecker pecking.

Woodpecker skulls have evolved with several varied layers of protection that allow them to absorb the fierce up to 1,000 G. The unequal length of the upper and lower parts of their beaks, serves to steer the impact force downwards, away from the brain, when it hits the tree. The woodpecker’s brain is contained within a unique skull casing, constructed from uneven, spongy plates. The heart-shaped hyoid bone, which reaches from their beak, loops over the top of the skull to completely surround their brains. This firmly keeps the brain in place, especially during the head’s backwards motion.
The researchers sign off with the following words ‘The design of intelligent helmet or impact-related injury resistant device would be enlightened greatly by the optimizations of woodpecker's skull morphology and microstructure and is helpful in developing new concepts for minimizing head impact injuries in future work.”

 Yes better lightweight helmets could be on the way aided by the study of woodpeckers


No comments: