Home Dog senses Super Sense: Blackpool Zookeeper Explores Unique Sea Lion Whiskers Movement

Super Sense: Blackpool Zookeeper Explores Unique Sea Lion Whiskers Movement



Paul Crone met Dr Alyx and the sea lions at Blackpool Zoo.

Have you ever wondered how seals and sea lions can hunt underwater? You might be surprised to learn that they use their mustaches.

And now a Northwestern zookeeper has secured funding to continue her extensive research into the actual movement of animalthe moustaches.

Born in Liverpool, Dr Alyx Milne PhD, who works at Blackpool Zoo, was accepted on the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Discovery Fellowship, following a grueling one-year selection process.

His research proved for the first time that specialized muscles move the whiskers of seals and sea lions, which was once thought to be linked to the positioning of the animal’s head.

Dr Alyx will then explore how whiskers are moved, controlled, and used for tactile sensing, much like human fingertips.

Dr Alyx Milne with the sea lion, Lo, at Blackpool Zoo.

Seals and sea lions have very sensitive whiskers that help them hunt even in poor visual conditions.

According to the Natural History Museum, they can detect the movement of other creatures in the water, even while moving themselves.

Dr. Alyx’s research is titled “Super Seal Sense: Whiskers Movement Strategies in Pinnipeds” and will be funded by the BBSRC and Manchester Metropolitan University.

The mother of two, who has worked as a researcher and associate lecturer, will end her in a project at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Credit: Pennsylvania

“My research so far has shown that California sea lions use their whiskers for task-specific movements such as identifying the size or texture of an object, so the next step will be to determine if other species do as well, ”Dr Alyx said.

“Although many researchers assume that whiskers perform active tactile detection, this has never been studied quantitatively in any animal.”

It is believed that exploring the topic could bring “benefits to many diverse areas.”

Dr Alyx explains, “I will design training tasks and use advanced 3D imaging to compare the differences between pinniped whiskers and the efficiency of their detection.

“I will be able to explore the effects of the shape of the mustaches using mechanical models and underwater robot sensors.”

Credit: Pennsylvania

Zoo director Darren Webster says he’s extremely proud of Dr Alyx. He said: “Since joining our team 12 years ago, she has become a favorite with visitors, staff and, of course, sea lions.

“She works incredibly hard and gives 100% in everything she does, which is why she is so successful.

“This scholarship is an incredible opportunity and it well deserves its place.”



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