Studying nature has long provided humanity with insights into how to better adapt to our world, and now experts believe that a secret to improving our everyday lives may very well be perched on a tree in your backyard: Scientists are optimistic that researching woodpeckers could completely revolutionize the way we bash trees apart with our heads to find bugs.
Wow! This could be huge!
Following preliminary research into the anatomy and biomechanics of woodpeckers, scientists at Cornell University say they are confident that further analysis of these birds could radically improve how we apply blunt force to trees with our skulls to locate insects, thus providing us with smarter, more efficient strategies for reducing timber to splinters while minimizing the resultant brain trauma. Conventional wisdom has long dictated that the best way to procure locusts from a tree is to slam one’s face against the bark with unhindered energy until bloody and marbled, but the researchers say they’re becoming increasingly convinced that the woodpeckers’ technique, which favors precision over belligerent thrashing, could yield far superior results.
“Woodpeckers have more than 25 million years of practice breaking apart trees with their heads, and we’re realizing we can probably learn a thing or two from them,” said neurobiologist Katherine Layfield, the study’s lead researcher. “Woodpeckers slam their heads against trees with 10 times the force of an NFL hit, yet you never see them becoming concussed to the point of shitting their pants like humans so often do when head-butting trees. You never see them screaming in agony and breaking their teeth as they futilely smash their faces against trees for hours on end, failing to coax out a single bug as their facial features become swollen beyond recognition. This is partly due to certain protective evolutionary adaptations they’ve developed, but we’re also finding that there are methods to their madness that could prove useful to humans.”
“For example, instead of yelling, ‘I’m about to bash the living shit out of you, bugs,” and charging headfirst into a tree in a way that dangerously distributes the force into the soft part of your skull and spine, you could instead take cues from woodpeckers and employ rapid, low-impact head-butts so that your neck muscles absorb most of the force,” she continued. “That way, you won’t knock yourself unconscious before you get to all the bugs.”
Layfield says that, according to her team’s estimates, emulating the head-banging mechanics of woodpeckers could result in a 500% higher bug return for humans while exponentially reducing debilitating brain injuries. And humans can also use technology to mimic certain useful evolutionary traits of woodpeckers, such as their large, cushion-like tongues, whose force-absorbing properties could be reproduced by simply stuffing a sneaker in one’s mouth before slamming one’s head against a tree.
While the researchers have still barely scratched the surface on all we can learn from woodpeckers, we’re nonetheless excited to see what these peculiar little birds will teach us about effective tree-bashing in years to come. Look, out, bugs—your days are numbered!