Whilst walking Archie the labrador through the woods this morning I noticed the distinctive pecking sound of a woodpecker. Why doesn’t the woodpecker get concussion I wondered? With a quick google I discovered that their heads move at 20 feet per second at each peck enduring a deceleration of more than 1000 times that of gravity. As like many of the conundrums in nature, the answer lies in evolution. Onwards I walked with Archie through the Devon woodlands. I noticed many of the terrains we negotiate are man made. Even the dug out kilns within the woods provide steep drops to avoid. Buildings, bridges, roads all pose threats for head injury in humans that evolution has simply not had chance to equip us for the requisite forces involved when things go wrong. If we assume evolution ended at the discovery of contraception, or perhaps ground to a snails pace, then we are simply not built for falling off buildings or getting struck by motorised vehicles. Where the woodpecker has evolved to cope with impressive forces, humans remain vulberable to the forces beyond the natural scope of the cave dweller.
Apparently the woodpecker has 3 useful physiological attributes. Firstly, its skull has a safety belt looping structure to protect it. Secondly, it has upper and lower beak discrepancies to help lower the load upon the beak. Thirdly, its skull has plate like bones with a spongy structure to finalise the protection. So next time you hear a woodpecker, think to yourself what an amazing thing evolution is.