Gannet Flying

Why diving birds don’t break their necks revealed in reports in ScienceDaily 5 October 2016 and PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608628113, published online 4 October 2016.

A group of scientists at Virginia Tech have carried out a study of the biomechanics involved to find out why diving birds don’t break their slender, apparently fragile necks. Some diving seabirds, such as gannets and boobies, can plunge head first into the water at speeds of up to 24m/s. This would really be a “breakneck speed” for a human diver.

The research team studied the structure of the bones and muscles of a gannet’s head and neck, and made a 3D model of a gannet skull in order to study the forces impinging on the skull as it entered the water. They also made a simplified model using 3D printed cone on a flexible stem and plunged this into water, noting the effects of changing the cone angle, neck length, and impact speed.

They found a combination of factors that prevented the neck from buckling. These were the shape of the head, the material properties of the neck, and the impact speed. The birds also contracted their neck muscles, which not only stiffen the neck but straighten it out from its normal S-shape.

The researchers who led this study are working with a Virginia Tech design team on a “gannet-inspired underwater projectile for autonomous sensing.”


Editorial Comment: Yes, we’ve said it before, but if the scientists and engineers do come up with a gannet-inspired underwater projectile, it won’t work until all the right structures and functions are in place. Note the number of structural and dynamic factors that have to be right before birds can succeed at plunge diving. They have to have the right head, neck and beak shape, with the right material properties, they need to know when to contract their neck muscles, and be able to generate enough speed to penetrate the water and overcome the drag in the water, but not so fast that they break their necks.

All of these factors have to be in place before diving gannets could pass the “survival of fittest” test, so they cannot have evolved one by one by chance evolution. Multiple combinations of structural and behaviour factors require plan and purpose.

We are not sure why the birds, who were all originally created vegetarian, (Genesis 1:26-31) would want to dive into water at high speeds. Maybe the tastiest seaweed for them was deep under water and they needed the extra speed, or then again, as someone who has climbed to the top of waterfalls simply so my mates and I could dive or jump off, purely for the thrill, these birds simply dive because they like it, and God does too. Any other suggestions?

Whatever the reason, they couldn’t do it unless they were the work of the Creative Designer Christ, who made the whole bird to be a fully functional shock avoiding machine from the very beginning.

Evidence News vol. 16, No.22
24 November 2016
Creation Research Australia

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