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Evidence of use of vibrissae in swimming in sigmodon fulviventer

, : Evidence of use of vibrissae in swimming in sigmodon fulviventer. Animal Behaviour 30(4): 1203-1206

Yellow-bellied cotton rats (S. fulviventer) from riparian habitats of a southwest New Mexican [USA] canyon have mystacial vibrissae that move well forward of the animals' noses when the rats are placed in the water. These rats are excellent swimmers and centrifugal stress alone has little or no effect on their aquatic behavior. Devibrissation (right, left, both sides) affected the swimming of 13 of 18 rats, resulting in body tilting and/or nose-dipping while in the water. With centrifugal stress and devibrissation, all 18 rats showed either or both effects. Vibrissae probably play a role in the successful swimming of these rats, perhaps in maintaining body position as well as in keeping the head above the water.

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