Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rats Use Whiskers to Map Out Area

Animals, like humans, have their own way with communication with their species. It was long thought that rats used their whiskers to communicate, but a research from the University of Sheffield discovered that their whiskers might actually be more than just a means of communication.
The research found that rats actually deliberately change their whisker’s movement and position, depending on a number of factors like familiarity of the place and the chance of bumping into an object. They use their whiskers like humans use their fingers. This means that they purposefully use their whiskers to pick up information from their environment.
rats noses
Vibrissae are think, long hairs that are found on a number of mammals, except on humans. These are specialized for touch or tactile sensing. Vibrissae are actually found all over the body, however facial vibrissae or whiskers are to most obvious and frequently studied. Small mammals like rats commonly used their whiskers when exploring the surrounding. This is called “whisking” and is assumed to carry sensory advantages for them. While whisking lets the animal locate an interesting stimulus, researchers weren’t sure about how the animal was actually able to control the movements of their whiskers.

During the research, the rats were “blinded” for a few days and made to run mazes for food. The researchers noticed how their whiskers moved and changed direction depending on what was available in the environment.
When the rats were new in the environment, they’d use their whiskers to scan though the area and once they became more familiar to it, they made smaller whisker movements.

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