By a whisker

Hardly a fad: Some facial hair serves important functions, scientists find

By Sharon Pochron, 10:00 AM September 2, 2012

Have you ever looked across the breakfast table at the stubble on your dad's unshaven face and thought, "Whiskers are weird"?

Well, whiskers are unusual, but not uncommon. In fact, almost all mammals, from walruses to wombats, have whiskers. For many animals, the special hairs that scientists call vibrissae (vi-BRI-see) serve important purposes.

Vibrissae differ from regular hair or fur. First, whiskers are thicker and often longer. You probably noticed that if you ever stroked the face ...

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