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Seal whiskers detect water movements


How do pinnipeds orientate themselves under water? As most pinniped species feed in conditions under which visibility is drastically reduced, for example at night, at great depths or in murky waters, it has been particularly unclear how they succeed in finding food. Here we show that harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) can use their whiskers to detect minute water movements. The high sensitivity of this sensory system should allow a seal to gain hydrodynamic information resulting from movements of other aquatic animals, such as prey, predators or conspecifics.

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Figure 1: Detection of water movements by the harbour seal.


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Dehnhardt, G., Mauck, B. & Bleckmann, H. Seal whiskers detect water movements. Nature 394, 235–236 (1998).

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