for a DK talk on Wednesday, October 3rd 2012 from 3 to 5 PM at Lecture Hall 2 at UZA I.
Peter Narins once put an ear to the sand in the Namib desert while studying the golden mole, a blind, nocturnal, vibration-sensing furball. He was trying to detect the seismic signals used by the mole to direct its sandy hunt for termites. But without the mole’s unique inner ear, Narins was out of luck. Now, he thinks the mole’s ear could be a model for better earthquake early detection systems.
For nearly four decades, the UCLA neurobiologist has roamed the world, frequenting hard-to-reach destinations in China, Namibia, and Central America as he searches for organisms doing exceptional things. Then, he attempts to understand the biological and evolutionary mechanisms behind their feats.
During his travels, Narins discovered that some of the most exceptional animal behaviors are imperceptible by humans. In China, for example, he found frogs communicating at ultrasonic frequencies far above anything humans could hear. And in Namibia, the golden mole’s ability to sense vibrations produced by desert winds and its favorite meal are likely too subtle to detect with our own ears (out of “Peter Narins, animal physiologist”, 2011, from Nadia Drake, Scicom). For more information about the seminar see the program.