New Bottlenose Dolphin Sense Discovered: They Feel Electricity; Sense Could Help Them Navigate the Globe

Born tail first, bottlenose dolphin calves emerge equipped with two slender rows of whiskers along their beak-like snouts – much like the touch-sensitive whiskers of seals. But the whiskers fall out soon after birth, leaving the youngster with a series of dimples, known as vibrissal pits. Recently Tim Hüttner and Guido Dehnhardt from the University of Rostock, Germany, began to suspect that the dimples may be more than just a relic. 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, with colleagues, published the extraordinary discovery and how the animals could use their electric sense on November 30, 2023 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The open-access article is titled “Passive Electroreception in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): Implication for Micro- and Large-Scale Orientation.”
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