Whisker research featured in Springwatch
A University of Sheffield scientist will be starring in an episode of Springwatch featuring her ground breaking research into how animals use their whiskers.
Dr Robyn Grant, of the university's Active Touch Laboratory (ATL@S), will feature in an episode of the BBC’s Springwatch show aired on BBC 2 at 8pm on Tuesday, 29 May 2012, as the team investigate hazel dormice.
The ATL@S researchers are working to compare how a number of animals, including opossums, seals and other rodents, move and use their whiskers in a sensory way.
Dr Grant said: “It was quite exciting really; they just rang me up completely out the blue after reading a couple of my papers that I had presented. They were really interested for me to tell them all about whiskers, especially in dormice.
“I have helped out on a couple of documentaries before but this was the first time that I had to be interviewed or asked to talk about my work on TV. The filming was fine and the crew really put me at ease.”
Using state-of-the-art high-speed digital video cameras, which film at about 500 frames per second, the researchers analyse the movements of the whiskers in ultra slow-motion.
The team has examined whisker movements of nine species of British rodents; including the wood, harvest, yellow-necked and house mice; field, bank and water voles; brown rats; hazel dormice and one non-rodent - the water shrew.
Dr Grant added: “We were looking at how different mammals have different whiskers and make different whisker movements. We could see that a more diurnal water vole, doesn't move its whiskers that much, while the nocturnal, climbing dormouse has larger whiskers and pushes them really far forward to explore the space ahead of their feet, so they can climb effectively - just like we use our eyes to watch where we are going.
“I am in the area of animal behaviour and sensory ecology - so I am really looking at how animals use their sense of touch and their whiskers to explore their environments. I look at how whisker movements develop, how they are driven by which specialist muscles, how they may have evolved and the differences in whisker movements and layouts between different mammals.”
The University of Sheffield's Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology
The University of Sheffield
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