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Seals Use Whiskers to Navigate Murky Waters, Researchers Find

How do seals feed and find their way around underwater when visibility is poor? They use their whiskers, according to a report in today’s Nature.

Zoologist Guido Dehnhardt and colleagues from the University of Bonn in Germany found that seals and sea lions, like rats and cats, have highly innervated whiskers that they use for active touch discrimination and for avoiding objects. The sensitivity of the whiskers was much greater than expected, they found: Blindfolded harbor seals were able to detect movements small enough to pick up the wake of a swimming fish.

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--Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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