Contrary to our beliefs, seals’ whiskers are adorable hunting weapons, new study conducted by MIT researchers has proven. Investigators have finally found the real purpose of seals’ whiskers, namely, to give them insights on the size of the prey and to maintain their balance during the hunting process.
Seals are usually given as examples for cuteness, given their corduroy-like silky skin, their large round eyes and their funny whiskers. Yet, a new study claims seals might not be so cute, after all. Like any other wild creature, seals, too, use all their God-given traits to hunt weaker species and feed themselves.
Their wild nature has been recently confirmed by the new findings of a new study conducted by researchers from MIT. According to Michael Triantafyllou, the lead author of the current study, seals’ whiskers function as antennae that inform them of surrounding objects and species in the water.
The functions of mammals’ whiskers are not at all new to scientists. On the contrary, they have already established during previous investigations that whiskers help mammals orient themselves, detect movement, perceive textures and maintain balance. It is their influence on seals that has not been known until recently.
For the current research, scientists have used an artificially-designed pair of whiskers and used it in various tests. Tests have revealed that the whiskers remained equally balanced even when the water was highly agitated. Moreover, the computer-based tools have shown researchers that the seal receives information on the size, shape and path of possible preys.
Seals’ whiskers have a particular form, too. They are slightly curled and for this reason, they help soothe the trajectory of the seal through the water. Furthermore, the seal determines the movements of the prey, based on the vibrations it senses in the water. The mechanism is similar to dolphins’ echolocation system – the internal sonar that enables dolphins to detect objects in the water.
The MIT team of researchers has been very pleased with these recent findings. In their opinion, the shape of seals’ whiskers can be used to improve existing technology. For instance, the discovery can be used to develop low-power water sensors, as well as underwater vehicles.
In Triantafyllou’s opinion, the best way to protect nature is to take inspiration from animals. She hopes the new model will help scientists develop new pollution sensors for the protection of the environment.
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