Woodpecker beaks divulge shock-absorbing properties

Scales, sutures and porosity help the birds hammer without going stupid

By Susan Milius, 17:16 PM May 6, 2014

Damage control is in the details. Tiny structures in a woodpecker’s beak help the bird hammer furiously without turning its brain to mush.

The birds can strike a tree 100 to 300 times a minute, decelerating each time with a jolt around a thousand times stronger than the pull of gravity. The structure of woodpeckers’ heads has already inspired designs for shock absorbers. And now Lakiesha Williams and colleagues at Mississippi State University have found damage-control measures in the beak itse...

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