Teacher’s Questions for Whiskers


Before reading:

1) Describe what you know about whiskers.

2) Have you ever seen an animal use its whiskers? Explain.

During reading:

1)     Are whiskers rare or common in mammals? Can all mammals with whiskers move them?

2)     Name two animals that can whisk their whiskers. Name another animal that can move its whiskers back and forth.

3)     How do scientists know Etruscan shrew uses its whiskers to find crickets? Explain which whiskers the shrews use to find the best place to bite a cricket.

4)     If you trimmed the macrovibrissae and microvibrissae on an Etruscan shrew, and then released it in the wild, what might happen to it?

5)     Why do you think scientists placed a blindfold and earmuffs on Henry while running the motorized paddle?

6)     Was Henry the seal better at telling apart two paddles of different sizes when the paddles moved: a) at the same speed? b) at different speeds?

7)     How did scientists motivate Henry to participate in their experiment?

8)     Why are whiskers especially important for dormice and other nocturnal animals?

9)     Describe a situation in which a rat’s whiskers could help it escape capture.

10) List three ways a whiskered robot could be useful.

11) Would you expect a whiskered robot to be as efficient as a rat in exploring a new environment?

After reading:

1)     Pick an animal mentioned in this article that you would like to know more about how it uses its whiskers. Now describe an experiment you could do, without harming the animal, to learn more.

2)     First, brainstorm a list of animals that have whiskers. Next, list several ways each animal uses its whiskers to either find its way or locate food.


1)     Blind people may not have sensitive whiskers but still use their sense of touch to help find their way. Do you think we could make homes, schools and offices more touch-friendly? What additional information about these settings could we make available to blind people through their sense of touch?