Vibrating Whiskers, or Finding One’s Way

23 Aug

The pier in Santa Cruz, California is a favorite sunbathing spot for sea lions.  Up close, you can identify the marine mammals by their ear flaps, which seals lack. But, like seals, they have whiskers. The sea lion below has a particularly fine set; even Hercule Poirot would be envious. Sea lions use their smooth and rotating whiskers to sense what’s around them. The whiskers, called vibrissae, pick up vibrations in the water or air, and are immensely useful when the sea lion is looking for food or is trying to avoid being food. Essentially, whiskers help sea lions find their way through the undercurrents of life.

Our youngest child is now in college. Looking back on 24 years of child rearing and looking ahead to a new modus vivendi, I, too, am envious of a sea lion’s whiskers.


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