This article reports on a new paper in PLOS Biology that originated as an observation, then student project in the MBL's Neural Systems & Behavior course, guided by faculty members/co-authors Micahael Brecht of Humboldt University and Ann Clemens, University of Edinburgh.

Many rodents use whiskers to feel their way around their world. But rats appear to take this one step further, using special, antennae-like whiskers above their eyes to sense subtle air movement. 

These long, thin hairs may help the rats detect the movements of predators or prey in dark, cramped environments, researchers report July 6 in PLOS Biology

Many studies of rodents have focused on the snout whiskers, says Ann Clemens, a neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh. But “there are a plethora of whiskers beyond the snout, on other parts of the face and the body.”

While working together on a research course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., Clemens and her colleagues noticed that some of the whiskers above rats’ eyes were particularly long and fine. The researchers wondered if these prominent, exposed hairs, known as supraorbital whiskers, could be used to detect wind. Read rest of the article here.

Source: Rats Sense the Wind with Antennae-like Whiskers Above their Eyes | Science News