Monday, July 15, 2024
Monday July 15, 2024
Monday July 15, 2024

Bottlenose dolphins’ astonishing ‘seventh sense’ unveiled: Electric field detection



Scientists at the University of Rostock and Nuremberg Zoo make groundbreaking discovery

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Bottlenose dolphins, renowned for their remarkable intelligence, have now revealed a hidden ‘seventh sense’ that sets them apart from other mammals.

Scientists recently uncovered this extraordinary ability residing in the vibrissal crypts, sensitive pores on the dolphins’ snouts rich in nerve endings. Previously discovered in 2022, these pores allow the marine creatures to detect weak electric fields in water.

In a groundbreaking experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Rostock and Nuremberg Zoo in Germany, captive dolphins Dolly and Donna demonstrated their capability to sense remarkably weak electric currents. Placed against a metal bar with electrodes in the water, the dolphins were trained to react when presented with randomly generated stimuli—either an electrical stimulus or none. Correctly identifying the electric field earned them rewards in the form of fish.

The study showcased the dolphins’ ability to detect electric fields as weak as 2.4 and 5.5 microvolts per centimeter, shedding light on their proficiency in using electroreception to locate prey hidden in sediment just before striking.

Lead researcher Guido Dehnhardt emphasized the importance of this sensitivity, stating, “The sensitivity to weak electric fields helps a dolphin search for fish hidden in sediment over the last few centimetres before snapping them up.”

Furthermore, this electroreception proves invaluable for dolphins in hunting prey and orienting themselves concerning the Earth’s magnetic field. Dehnhardt highlighted that these findings deepen our understanding of dolphins’ intricate sensory abilities, showcasing their unique position in the animal kingdom.

The revelations about dolphins’ exceptional features did not stop there, as recent images unveiled a dolphin with ‘thumbs.’ Captured by Alexandros Frantzis, the president of the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, these photographs showcased hook-shaped ‘thumbs’ carved out of the dolphin’s flippers. Frantzis noted that this unique flipper morphology is a surprising and unprecedented discovery, emphasizing the researchers’ hope that these ‘thumbs’ are not opposable.

As scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of these highly intelligent marine mammals, the bottlenose dolphins stand as a testament to the wonders of the natural world.


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