Amazing Whiskers

Did you ever wonder how a seal finds food in the dark and even in murky water? Two harbor seals have given Dr. Guido Dehnhardt of Ruhr University in Germany the answer: It's their whiskers! According to The Washington Post's "Science Notebook," July 9, 2001, the two seals were assigned the task of following "a miniature submarine that was mimicking a fish. Even blindfolded, the seals were able to track the sub extremely well, except when their whiskers were covered with a stocking mask, the researchers reported in the July 6 issue of Science…'As a function of swim speed and their biomechanical properties, the whiskers of a swimming seal probably vibrate with characteristic frequencies. A hydrodynamic trail intersected by the seal might cause a modulation of this characteristic vibration that might be sensed by the seal.'"