Latest Global Technology News

Seals hunt using Whisker Tech

Animals often possess senses superior to that of humans.

For instance, seals hunt for food underwater without the use of their sense of sight or smell.

All they need... are whiskers.

Park Se-young shares with how scientists are tapping into the potential of biologically inspired sensors.
Harbor seals detect their prey thanks to their antennae-like whiskers.

Using 3D printers, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have reproduced a large-scale model of a seal′s whisker and identified the mechanism behind its tracking abilities.

The whiskers have a wavy shape, which allows seals to sense only external vibrations that are uninfluenced by their movement.
 
seal hunt using whisker tech

They remain still in response to the seal′s own movements, and oscillate in a zigzag motion, responding to turbulence from moving objects.

To better understand how the whiskers function, researchers used the replica to test its vibrations underwater.
They came to learn that the zigzag motion allows the whiskers to extract energy from the wake of a passing object, causing them to vibrate at the same frequency.

This provides seals with information on an object′s size, shape and trajectory, ...which makes it possible for them to find fish that they can′t see.

″Even if harbor seals are blindfolded and have earmuffs on, they can chase the exact path an object took several second earlier. Animals could use their whiskers to feel the deflection information from their whiskers in the nerves in their cheek.″

The researchers say such biologically inspired sensors can be beneficial for underwater vehicles, which can be used to find schools of fish and sources of pollution.
 

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