Animals perform many feats that are remarkable once you think about them.
Here’s one that I never previously contemplated: seabirds dive into the water to capture fish at seemingly breakneck speeds — yet their necks are completely unharmed.
Speaking at a meeting of the American Physical Society in San Antonio, Sunny Jung of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and his colleagues sought to understand how birds survive these dives, by studying a type of seabird known as the northern gannet.
Up to three and a half feet long, these elegant birds look like torpedoes when they fold in their wings.
The birds experience tremendous impact forces as they smash into the water, which is a thousand times denser than air. According to Jung, northern gannets hit the water at speeds of approximately 55 miles per hour.
Imagine driving your car into a wall of water at those speeds, he said.
Gannets perform about 60 dives per hunting trip. They enter the water at speeds comparable to those of the fish moving in water.
Birds’ necks are remarkable in comparison with humans. Humans have 7 neck bones while birds have anywhere from 11-25 bones. The neck can be as much as half the length of the body.