Seal Whiskers Vibrate Over Broad Frequencies During Hydrodynamic Tracking

Scientific Reports
Christin T MurphyDavid Mann

Abstract

Although it is known that seals can use their whiskers (vibrissae) to extract relevant information from complex underwater flow fields, the underlying functioning of the system and the signals received by the sensors are poorly understood. Here we show that the vibrations of seal whiskers may provide information about hydrodynamic events and enable the sophisticated wake-tracking abilities of these animals. We developed a miniature accelerometer tag to study seal whisker movement in situ. We tested the ability of the tag to measure vibration in excised whiskers in a flume in response to laminar flow and disturbed flow. We then trained a seal to wear the tag and follow an underwater hydrodynamic trail to measure the whisker signals available to the seal. The results showed that whiskers vibrated at frequencies of 100-300 Hz, with a dynamic response. These measurements are the first to capture the incoming signals received by the vibrissae of a live seal and show that there are prominent signals at frequencies where the seal tactogram shows good sensitivity. Tapping into the mechanoreceptive interface between the animal and the environment may help to decipher the functional basis of this extraordinary hydrodynamic detection abil...Continue Reading

References

Sep 7, 2019·Scientific Reports·Muthukumar Muthuramalingam, Christoph Bruecker
Apr 14, 2019·The Anatomical Record : Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology·Aubree Jones, Christopher D Marshall

Citations

Jul 7, 2001·Science·Guido DehnhardtH Bleckmann
Feb 14, 2007·The Journal of Experimental Biology·N Schulte-PelkumBjörn Mauck
Jun 15, 2010·The Journal of Experimental Biology·Sven WieskottenWolf Hanke
Jul 20, 2010·The Journal of Experimental Biology·Wolf HankeGuido Dehnhardt
Aug 8, 2013·PloS One·Christin T MurphyDavid Mann
Jun 10, 2015·The Journal of Experimental Biology·Christin T MurphyDavid Mann

Related Concepts

Genus Phoca
Phocidae
Visual Tracking
Environment
Nia vibrissa
Hydrodynamics
Accelerometers
Vibratory Urticaria
Seals (Animal)
Vibration - Physical Agent

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