By: Douglas Main (OurAmazingPlanet) Discovery News Owls don’t need eyes in the back of their heads to see what’s behind them — they can just swivel their heads all the way around. In fact, many owl species, such as the barred owl, can rotate their heads 270 degrees in each direction, which means they can look to the left by rotating all the way to the right, or vice versa. But how do they do it without severing their arteries or preventing blood from reaching the brain? An illustrator and a physician at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine teamed up to find out. “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 humans tried to rotate our heads so rapidly or far, we’d tear the lining of our arteries, which would cause clots to form and lead to a stroke (besides also breaking our necks), he added. “The carotid and vertebral arteries in the neck of most animals — including owls and humans — are very fragile and highly susceptible to even minor tears of the vessel lining.”
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