Thursday, 21 February 2013

Seals judge size using their whiskers

By Ella Davies, Reporter, BBC Nature

Seals are able to judge the size of an object using their whiskers, according to research.
The mammals are known for their touch-sensitive whiskers but scientists wanted to know exactly how they size up their prey.

Researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University found that the animals move specialised whiskers towards an object to measure it.

The results also showed how quickly seals could judge size.

The findings are published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A.

Dr Robyn Grant travelled to the marine science centre at the University of Rostock in Germany to study the whiskers of two harbour seals named Marco and Moe.

Recent hydrodynamic research showed how seals can size up fish based on the wake they leave as they move through the water.

"We thought it would be good to do more of an in-depth study to look at how they do it rather than just whether they can do it or not," explained Dr Grant.

Many species use whiskers as touch sensors and animals such as rats and mice move their whiskers around in order to get more information about their environment.

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