Bottlenose dolphins found to be one of the only mammals in the world with a 'seventh sense'

Known for their remarkable intelligence, bottlenose dolphins possess a unique 'seventh sense' that has only been uncovered by scientists recently. Despite being extensively studied, these marine animals continue to reveal new aspects of their abilities.
Dolphins possess sensitive pores on their snouts called vibrissal crypts, abundant in nerve endings, rendering them highly responsive. In 2022, a study revealed that these openings enable dolphins to perceive faint electric fields in water. Nevertheless, the extent of their sensitivity to these weak fields remained unknown until recently.

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Rostock and Nuremberg Zoo in Germany, two captive dolphins, Dolly and Donna, were part of an experiment. They were trained to place their snouts against a metal bar equipped with electrodes in the water.

Once positioned, the dolphins were exposed to a randomly generated stimulus, which could be either an electrical impulse or nothing at all. When the dolphins detected a stimulus, they were trained to swim away from the bar. Conversely, if they sensed nothing, they remained in place.

Successful detections of an electric field were rewarded with fish. The results demonstrated that the dolphins could utilize the pores on their snouts to perceive electric fields as faint as 2.4 and 5.5 microvolts per centimeter.

The researchers concluded that while dolphins may not be as electrically sensitive as sharks and rays, they possess the ability to employ electroreception similarly. This enables them to detect weak electric fields emitted by the bodies of their prey during hunting.
Guido Dehnhardt, the lead researcher, explained, "The sensitivity to weak electric fields enables dolphins to locate fish concealed in sediment just centimeters before seizing them."

He also posited that the dolphins' capacity to sense electricity could have broader applications, such as aiding in their orientation relative to the Earth's magnetic field.

The revelations about dolphins don't stop there. Recently, scientists uncovered the first dolphin with 'thumbs.' Photographs of this unique dolphin show its flippers featuring hook-shaped structures resembling thumbs.

Alexandros Frantzis, the scientific coordinator and president of the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, who captured the images, remarked, "It was the very first time we observed this surprising flipper morphology in 30 years of open sea surveys and studies monitoring stranded dolphins along the coasts of Greece."

Considering that dolphins are deemed nearly on par with humans in terms of 'planetary dominance,' as indicated by a 2017 study, one can only hope that the researchers are correct in stating that these thumbs are non-opposable.

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