Navigation Links
Whiskers marked milestone in evolution of mammals from reptiles
Date:11/10/2011

Research from the University of Sheffield comparing rats and mice with their distance relatives the marsupial, suggests that moveable whiskers were an important milestone in the evolution of mammals from reptiles.

Using high-speed digital video recording and automatic tracking, the research team, which was led by Professor Tony Prescott from the University's Department of Psychology, have shed light on how rodents such as mice and rats move their whiskers back-and-forth at high speed and in varying ways to actively sense the environment around them in a behaviour known as whisking. Whisking allows mice or rats to accurately determine the position, shape and texture of objects, make rapid and accurate decisions about objects, and then use the information to build environmental maps.

When running in a straight line, rats and mice move their whiskers back-and-forth the same amount on both sides. However when turning, they bias their whisker movements in the direction of the turn, and when the whiskers on one side of the head contact an object, those on the opposite side sweep round to gather more information. These active sensing strategies boost the information gained by the whiskers helping the animals to better understand their world through touch.

In their latest research, the team have shown that whisking like that of rodents, using these active sensing strategies, is also seen in a small South American marsupial - the grey short-tailed opossum. This animal has many similarities to an early mammal that would have lived more than 125 million years ago; that is, around the same time that the evolutionary lines leading to modern rodents and marsupials diverged.

This evidence suggests that some of the first mammals may also have whisked like a modern mouse or rat, and that the appearance of moveable whiskers was pivotal in the evolution of mammals from reptiles. The research is published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B on 12 November 2011 and will also be presented on the same day at the Society for Neuroscience conference.

The earliest mammals were nocturnal, and tree-living. In order to successfully move around and thrive in this challenging environment these animals needed to effectively integrate information from multiple senses -- sight, sound, smell, and touch. Facial whiskers provided mammals with a new tactile sense not available to reptiles that could help them to get around in the dark.

In addition to continuing to investigate the similarities and differences between rodents and marsupials, the team is also using these insights from biological whisker sensing to develop animal-like robots that can use artificial whiskers to navigate without vision. These robots could have applications in search-and-rescue, particularly in environments, such as disaster sites, where vision is compromised by smoke or dust.

Professor Tony Prescott said: "This latest research suggests that alongside becoming warm-blooded, giving birth to live young, and having an enlarged brain, the emergence of a new tactile sense based on moveable facial whiskers was an important step along the evolutionary path to modern mammals. Although humans no longer have moveable whiskers they were a critical feature of our early mammalian ancestors."


'/>"/>
Contact: Shemina Davis, Media Relations Officer
shemina.davis@sheffield.ac.uk
01-142-225-339
University of Sheffield
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Whiskers hold secrets of invasive minks
2. Harbor seals whiskers as good at detecting fish as echolocating dolphins
3. Seals sense shapes using their whiskers to feel wakes
4. Marked improvement in body image, physical stamina, post-surgical pectus patients report
5. First global study of real-world circumcision rollout conducted over 3-year period in South Africa amongst 110,000 adults shows a marked reduction (>60 percent) of HIV acquisition among circumcised adult men
6. Missouri Botanical Garden mounts milestone 6 millionth herbarium specimen
7. Milestone achieved toward production of malaria treatment using synthetic biology and fermentation
8. ExcellGene and Khner achieved milestone in development of novel 250 Liter mammalian cell culture bioreactors
9. Milestone in live microscopy focus of $2 million NIH grant
10. Lockheed Martin Team Completes Key Design Milestone on Federal Bureau of Investigations Next Generation Identification Program
11. Milestone discovery in cell behaviors
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016 Research and ... North America 2016-2020" report to their offering. ... North America to grow at a CAGR of ... been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from ... prospects over the coming years. The report also includes a discussion ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... -- The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics was once ... one of the fastest-growing trade shows during the Fastest 50 ... Las Vegas . Winners ... each of the following categories: net square feet of paid ... The 2015 ACMG Annual Meeting was ranked 23 out of ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... LOS ANGELES , June 22, 2016 ... of identity management and verification solutions, has ... cutting edge software solutions for Visitor Management, ... ® provides products that add functional ... The partnership provides corporations and venues with ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital ... Sports Association to serve as their official health ... Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, athletic training ... association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... Sports Association and to bring Houston Methodist quality ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... , ... Supplyframe, the Industry Network for electronics hardware design ... Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design Lab’s mission is to bring together inventors ... and brought to market. , The Design Lab is Supplyframe’s physical representation of ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Andrew ... http://doi.org/10.17925/OHR.2016.12.01.22 Published recently in ... journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz , ... cancer care is placing an increasing burden on ... biologic therapies. With the patents on many biologics ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016  Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN ) today ... life sciences incubator to accelerate the development of ... space at QB3@953 was created to help high-potential life ... many early stage organizations - access to laboratory infrastructure. ... launched two "Amgen Golden Ticket" awards, providing each winner ...
Breaking Biology Technology: