Your Man Friday’s Ideas: Enviable Uncommon Senses
It is easy and natural to assume everyone and every creature perceives the world the same way we do, but of course, this not true. A lot of apparently inexplicable animal behaviour can only be understood if we realize that they might have senses we can’t imagine—but can sometimes envy.
We have retained and developed those senses that evolved as useful for our survival, but they are different for other creatures with other needs. Here is a list of some amazing sensory capabilities that serve other members of the animal kingdom. (Any of them are worth following up on for fascinating reading.)
MAGNETIC FIELD DETECTORS AND INTUITIVE TRIGONMETRY
A surprising number of creatures can sense magnetic fields, including ants, bees, sharks, turtles, tuna, salmon, and homing pigeons, as well as many migratory birds. Even dogs, for some unknown reason, often poop in alignment with magnetic north!) And many animals seem to be able to do trigonometry intuitively. (No math course and calculator—or huge cerebral cortex—required.) Here is an amazing example of foxes using this special sense and their intuitive grasp of trig to get dinner. http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2014/01/03/259136596/youre-invisible-but-ill-eat-you-anyway-secrets-of-snow-diving-foxes
WE CAN’T KNOW WHAT A DOG’S NOSE KNOWS
Snakes have the equivalent of the olfactory epithelium we have in our noses (but tuned for different size molecules) called Jacobsen's Organ. A snake's forked tongue collects chemicals from the air and delivers it to this organ, which is located in the roof of its mouth! With it they can detect pheromones (which we can’t) that they use to find potential prey. Dogs have it too (but in their noses), and it partially accounts for their incredible sense of smell, which is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times as powerful as ours.