From my first shop teacher to my last, all have stressed the importance of wearing eye protection in the shop. Applying tools to materials inevitably creates flying shards with unpredictable trajectories. So how is it that woodpeckers, who have a tool at the end of their face that they slam into trees up to 12,000 times a day, never wear safety goggles, yet never seem to turn up at the ER with a scratched cornea and sheepish excuses?
For that matter, how do camels, polar bears and beavers keep sand, snow and water out of their eyes?
Woodpeckers actually have a leg up on all of them. These wood-processing avians have evolved these:
That protective tuft of feathers, located midway between the business end of their beaks and their eyes, is actually there to deflect chips. I know it sounds like malarkey, but ask an ornithologist.
Woodpeckers also have a feature shared by aforementioned camels and polar bears (and aardvarks and sharks, among others) called a nictitating membrane in their eyes. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Men in Black,” you know what those are:
Here’s a better look:
That third eyelid comes in awfully handy for keeping out debris–but, sadly, evolution left it off our list of human goodies. Instead we got thumbs that we can use to work tools, and to reach into our pockets to grasp the money needed to buy a pair of safety goggles.