Fellows in the News

A July 2022 article by the Atlantic, How to Successfully Smash Your Face Against a Tree, explores a recent study which refutes the widespread idea that woodpeckers have shock-absorbing heads.

Switzer Fellow Margaret Rubega is quoted in the article saying "[the study] really lays to rest the idea that some part of the head is acting as a shock absorber.” The article continues: 

Even if woodpeckers did absorb shocks, it wouldn’t help them. Using simulations of a black woodpecker’s head, [study author] Van Wassenbergh showed that a shock-absorbing skull would force the bird to spend more energy on pecking for no benefit. As Rubega said, “You don’t use a spring to hammer a nail with.” Instead, you use … well … a hammer, which is what the woodpecker’s head essentially is—a rigid structure that has evolved not to absorb shocks but to preserve them.

Learn more about the de-bunking of this common myth in the full story by Ed Yong. 

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