Vibrissae (singular: vibrissa), or whiskers, are specialized hairs, usually employed for tactile sensation, but can also refer to the stiff feathers near the mouths of some birds. Vibrissae hairs commonly grow around the nostrils, above the lips, and on other parts of the face of most mammals, as well as on the forelegs and feet of some animals. Vibrissae are usually thicker and stiffer than other types of hair.Weldon Owen Pty Ltd. (1993). "Encyclopedia of animals - Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians." Reader's Digest Association, Inc. pg. 18. ISBN 1875137491.] [ [ Vibrissa] ,, undated (accessed 20 January,2007)]


In some mammals, the follicles of vibrissae are surrounded by a highly developed sheath of muscle tissue which can be used to move them, such as in the case of whiskers found on cats, dogs and other mammals. Whiskers can grow to be extremely long; the length of a chinchilla's whiskers can be up to a third of its body length.

Vibrissae offer an advantage to animals that do not always have sight to rely on to navigate or to find food, or when the usefulness of non-tactile senses is limited. Some animals, such as house mice, can even detect air movements with their vibrissae.

A large part of the brain of many mammals is devoted to processing the nerve impulses from vibrissae because it is important to their survival. Information from the vibrissae is transmitted and processed through the trigeminal nerve into the brainstem and thalamus before relaying to the barrel cortex of the brain. Mammals use a great deal of energy to keep the follicles housing their whiskers warm and ready to use. Some animals - mainly rodents - actively palpate their vibrissae, a process known as whisking, whilst others use them merely as passive sensors.


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  • vibrissa — pl. vibrissae, 1690s, from L. vibrissa, akin to vibrare to vibrate (see VIBRATE (Cf. vibrate)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Vibrissa — Vi*bris sa, n.; pl. {Vibriss[ae]}. [L. vibrissae, pl., the hairs in the nostrils of man, fr. vibrare to vibrate; so called because touching them tickles a person, and causes him to shake his head.] 1. (Anat.) One of the specialized or tactile… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • vibrissa — s. f. 1. Cada um dos pelos que se desenvolvem nas fossas nasais. 2. Pena filiforme das aves. 3. Cada um dos pelos rijos e táteis de certos mamíferos.   ‣ Etimologia: latim vibrissae, arum …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • vibrissa — [vī bris′ə] n. pl. vibrissae [vī bris′ē] [ModL < L vibrissae, pl., akin to vibrare, to VIBRATE] Anat. Zool. 1. any of the stiff hairs growing in or near the nostrils of certain animals and often serving as organs of touch, as a cat s whiskers… …   English World dictionary

  • vibrissa — n.; pl. sae [L. vibrissa, whisker] 1. Stiff hairs or bristles. 2. (ARTHROPODA: Insecta) For Diptera, see oral vibrissae …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • vibrissa — vi·brìs·sa s.f. 1. TS zool. nei Mammiferi, ciascuno dei peli con funzioni sensoriali e tattili raggruppati sul muso, sugli arti o sull addome | CO pl., i baffi dei gatti 2. TS anat. nell uomo, ciascuno dei peli impiantati nel vestibolo delle… …   Dizionario italiano

  • vibrissa — noun (plural vibrissae) Etymology: Medieval Latin, from Latin vibrare Date: circa 1693 1. one of the stiff hairs that are located especially about the nostrils or on other parts of the face in many mammals and that often serve as tactile organs 2 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • vibrissa — vibrissal, adj. /vuy bris euh/, n., pl. vibrissae / bris ee/. 1. one of the stiff, bristly hairs growing about the mouth of certain animals, as a whisker of a cat. 2. one of the long, slender, bristlelike feathers growing along the side of the… …   Universalium

  • vibrissa — noun Any of the tactile whiskers on the nose of an animal such as a cat …   Wiktionary

  • vibrissa — SYN: hairs of vestibule of nose, under hair. [L. found only in pl. vibrissae, fr. vibro, to quiver] * * * vi·bris·sa vī bris ə, və n, pl vi·bris·sae vī bris (.)ē; və bris (.)ē, ī 1) any of the stiff hairs that are located esp. about the nostrils… …   Medical dictionary

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