Sunday, 16 February 2014

Owls Are Engineered for Stealth and Silence

Owls are engineered for stealth and silence, recent research suggests.

Joel Kontinen

It has become increasingly difficult to deny design in nature. While Darwinian just so stories still abound on the pages of science magazines, researchers are realising that there is a designed purpose in many animal traits.

Recently, a news release by Lehigh University pointed out that owls disclose signs of engineering. The headline already suggested a very non-Darwinian approach: Engineered for stealth and silence.

What is more, in their search for more more effective solutions, researchers are turning to the animal kingdom:

Understanding how these large birds swoop noiselessly, says Justin Jaworski, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, may help engineers create quieter airplanes, wind turbines and underwater vehicles.”

He goes on to say:

The fluffy upper surface of the wing is made of a down feather material that is similar in texture to commercial velvet. When examined under a microscope … this structure looks like vertical strings with interlocking barbs at their tops. This mesh creates a buffer layer that also stifles sound.”

It does not sound at all like the product of blind Darwinian processes.


Prieto, Carla. 2014. Engineered for stealth and silence. Lehigh University news release. (January 31).