Baryshnikov Would Be Jealous

When you watch a famous ballet dancer, like Baryshnikov, you will see certain moves that are difficult, but which have a designed purpose in the performance. A ballet dancer will spin around, and around for what seems to be an impossibly long time, and never get dizzy. They do this by a technique called "spotting". They focus their eyes on a spot and keep them there as they spin their body until their necks can no longer handle it. At that point the dancers snap their heads around and refocus on the same point.

sea gull

There is a bird called the red-necked phalarope that not only does this spotting technique, but also uses a spinning dance to eat. The red-necked phalarope is about the size of a sparrow. It will land in the water, and begin spinning around by kicking one leg harder than the other. Spinning about one revolution per second, the bird will kick away water at the surface so that water from underneath will replace it (see sketch). As this buoyant cork-like bird does this, water rises from 50 cm. or more under it, bringing food with it. As the food rises, the phalarope sketch keeps its eye on it, snapping their heads around as needed to keep from getting dizzy. Some phalaropes have been seen to feed 180 times a minute. Some spin clockwise all the time, and some spin counterclockwise. All are efficient masters of hydrodynamics, designed for a very specific kind of eating. Like all designs, this one testifies to a designer who marvelously endows the creatures around us with their own abundance of food. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" ( Matthew 6:26).

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