Understanding Swiveling Action of Owls’ Heads

by Savitha C Muppala on  February 3, 2013 at 8:01 AM Research News   - G J E 4
Why are we not able to swivel our head around like owls do?

Many species of owls are in a position to rotate their heads 270 degrees in each direction, without severing their arteries and disrupting blood flow to the brain.
 Understanding Swiveling Action of Owls’ Heads
Understanding Swiveling Action of Owls’ Heads

"Until now, brain imaging specialists like me who deal with human injuries caused by trauma to arteries in the head and neck have always been puzzled as to why rapid, twisting head movements did not leave thousands of owls lying dead on the forest floor from stroke," said study author Dr. Philippe Gailloud, in a statement from the university.

If we tried doing this, we could damage the lining of our arteries and this could increase the risk of strokes. We could also end up breaking our necks in the process.

The research revealed that owls' neck bones, or vertebrae, have holes bigger than what is found in other birds or humans. These holes, or canals, possibly hold air sacks which can cushion the twisting motion of the head. These canals are not present in the bottom two vertebra of the neck. This affords the cord-like vessels some slack when the bird turns its head.

Further, the vertebral artery widens in the area nearing the brain, which is not usually seen in animals. This could possibly be the area where blood collects, so the brain can tap into it when the head swivels.

An interesting finding that aids understanding of the swiveling action of owl's heads.

Source: Medindia

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