Unraveling a Surprising Sensory Skill
Dolphins can now sense weak electric fields and navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field, according to recent research. Famed for their echolocation sonar, dolphins boast distinct traits like dual-directional vision and antibacterial gel-secreting skin.
These marine mammals also have the capacity to rest half of their brains, and their robust immune systems provide defense against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Moreover, recent research underscores their remarkable ability to sense weak electric fields, enhancing their navigation skills and aiding in locating concealed food sources as they mature.
Dolphins’ Newfound Sense
A recent study from the University of Rostock in Germany highlights this remarkable skill in dolphins. Researchers observed small pits left by shedding whiskers in young bottlenose dolphins, similar to structures found in sharks for detecting electrical fields.
Two dolphins were trained to detect electrical currents, showcasing sensitivity to signals as low as 5.5 microvolts/cm and 2.4 microvolts/cm. This electroreception ability aids dolphins in locating fish hidden in sediment before capturing them. The researchers suggest it may also help dolphins navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field and could explain occasional beach strandings due to magnetic field fluctuations.
The findings were published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.