Jan 18, 2024

Scientists Discover New Sense of Bottlenose Dolphins: They Feel Electricity

Posted by in category: biological

Born tail first, bottlenose dolphin calves are initially adorned with two delicate rows of whiskers along their snout, resembling the tactile whiskers of seals. However, these whiskers are shed shortly after birth, leaving behind a pattern of indentations called vibrissal pits. Recently, Tim Hüttner and Guido Dehnhardt, researchers from the University of Rostock in Germany, began to suspect that these pits might serve a purpose beyond being mere remnants.

Could they allow adult bottlenose dolphins to sense weak electric fields? Taking an initial close look, they realized that the remnant pits resemble the structures that allow sharks to detect electric fields, and when they checked whether captive bottlenose dolphins could sense an electric field in water, all of the animals felt the field.

‘It was very impressive to see,’ says Dehnhardt, who recently published the extraordinary discovery and how the animals could use their electric sense in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

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