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Seals use Whiskers to Track Prey in Deep Ocean

Seals use their Whiskers to seek down their prey in the deep, dark ocean, according to a research that observed the marine creatures in their natural habitat. Because light can’t penetrate the darkness of the ocean’s depths, animals have devised a range of adaptations to survive and hunt there.

Whales and dolphins utilise echolocation to locate prey by making clicky noises into the water and listening to their echo when it bounces off potential prey. Deep-diving seals, on the other hand, must have evolved to use a different sensory approach because they don’t have those same acoustic projectors. Given the difficulty of viewing the hunters in the tenebrous depths of the ocean, scientists have long hypothesized that their secret weapons are their long, cat-like Whiskers, performing over 20 years of trials with fake Whiskers or captive seals blinded in a pool.

According to Taiki Adachi, assistant project scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and one of the primary authors of the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a study may have proven the notion. In California’s Ao Nuevo state park, Adachi and his crew placed tiny video cameras with infrared night-vision on the left cheek, lower jaw, back, and head of five free-ranging northern elephant seals, Mirounga angustirostris. During their seasonal journey, they captured around nine and a half hours of deep water film.

The scientists discovered that diving seals kept their Whiskers back for the first portion of their dives and then repeatedly flicked them back and forth once they reached a depth suitable for foraging, hoping to detect any vibration created by the tiniest water movements of swimming prey. (Elephant seals eat squid and fish, and they spend a lot of time at sea.) The Whiskers then curled back towards the face as they swam back to the surface.

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