Ever notice the tiny hairs on a manatee’s back as a glint of sun hits them?
Their long facial whiskers are more commonly recognizable, but a new study conducted on Mote Marine Laboratory’s manatees indicates that those body hairs play an important role in helping the animals navigate through the water.Researchers used a shaker, or a vibrating sphere, to place vibrations in the water at varying degrees and determine whether the manatees could sense them based on their body hairs. The surprising discovery was that the manatees’ hairs, known as vibrissae, are incredibly sensitive: they can detect vibrations as low as one millionth of a meter.
“Often people think that animals have the same senses that we do,” said Mote’s senior aquarium biologist for manatees, Kat Boerner, who works with Hugh and Buffett each day. “But this really strong tactile sense is why we still have manatees in our waters today.”
So while there may be more to life than being really, really ridiculously good looking, the same cannot be said for having really, really, ridiculously sensitive body hairs.
For manatees, that could be key.