The splendid whiskers of seals aren’t your typical moustache, and they aren’t simply for looking sophisticated as the seal glides through its marine realm. The facial hair is incredibly sensitive, and serves a very useful purpose in helping the seal to track movement underwater.

Researchers have highlighted how their curved shape is particularly important – even during high speed swimming the whiskers will remain relatively still. However, set in motion a few ripples at distance, representing the wake of fish swimming nearby, and the whiskers will begin to twitch. This is how seals can perform some fantastic feats with their facial hair, detecting fish even at long distance, and homing in for a meal.

Beem, H & Triantafyllou, M. (2015). Exquisitely sensitive seal whisker-like sensors detect wakes at large distances. http://arxiv-web3.library.cornell.edu/abs/1501.04582

 

 

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