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Science Reveals How Owls Avoid Stroke While Rotating Heads
Date:1/31/2013

s several unusual features.

One of the first things the investigators noticed was the large size of the hollow cavities of the vertebrae in an owl's neck. This allows extra space for movement of the major arteries that pass through these vertebrae on their way to feed blood and oxygen to the brain. In addition, an owl's vertebral artery gains even more room and slack by entering the neck at a higher spot than has been seen in other birds.

While studying the owls' vascular network, the scientists noted a large blood reservoir at the base of the head. This allows the animal to store a blood supply for their brain and eyes while they rotate their head by as much as 270 degrees in either direction. Even if this twisting movement blocks the blood supply along one route, the owls' interconnected vascular network helps provide uninterrupted blood flow to the brain.

The researchers now plan to study hawk anatomy to see if they possess the same adaptations for head rotation as owls.

More information

The World Owl Trust has more about owls.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Jan. 31, 2013


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