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How rats can see in the dark: Rodents use whiskers in the same way humans use their hands to feel their way around
MARK PRIGG dailymail.co.uk Rats use their whiskers in the same way that humans use their hands and fingers to feel their way around, it has been discovered. Scientists said rats are so intelligent that they can deliberately change how they sense their environment using their facial whiskers depending on whether their surroundings are unfamiliar, if they are going to bump into something and whether they can see where they are going. It is the first evidence to show that rats are cleverer than previously thought, said the University of Sheffield researchers. Rats use their whiskers in the same way that humans use their hands and fingers, it has been discovered - and Sheffield researchers say they can deliberately change how they sense their environment using their facial whiskers. Academics from Sheffield University's active touch laboratory used high-speed video to study animals that had been trained over several days to perform tasks for food. By putting them in different scenarios - including putting unexpected obstacles in their way and removing visual cues - the team discovered strong evidence the creatures moved their whiskers in a purposeful way to safely navigate the course. The study showed that exploring rats move their long facial whiskers back and forth continuously while they are moving - a behaviour called 'whisking'. 'The rat puts its whiskers where it thinks it will get the most useful information, just as we do with our fingertips,' said Professor Tony Prescott, who led the study at the University of Sheffield.
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