The Kid Should See This

How and why do animals sense the world totally differently than us?

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“Every animal has its own sensory world,” Pulitzer Prize winning science journalist Ed Yong explains, “its own thin slice of the fullness of reality that it can detect.” He continues in the Big Think video above:

“Evolution has shaped the senses of animals according to their needs, but no animal can sense everything. No animal is perfect at everything. There is so much information out there that to be able to detect it all would be an overwhelming experience and also unnecessary.”

owl senses

“There’s also a cost to the senses; senses don’t come for free. To build a sense organ and to maintain all the neurons that feed into that sense organ takes up a lot of energy, which is why their senses are so refined and so constrained by their evolutionary needs…

“When you really think about the senses, you do start to understand the very different kinds of information that those senses offer their owners…”

Learn about the concept of umwelt, popularized by German zoologist Jakob von UexkΓΌll, which highlights the specific set of sights, smells, textures, and sounds that define an animal’s sensory experience.

catfish skin
Then find out more about different animals’ sensory adaptations. Yong discusses the catfish’s taste buds on its skin, the owl’s asymmetrically positioned ears for precise sound localization, and the elephant’s ability to find water using its powerful sense of smell.

Yong shares how every animal has its own special way of sensing the world around it, and when we empathize “with the smell world of a dog or the touch world of a sea otter,” we can feel like we’re going on a “fantastical voyage into the world of another creature.”

Ed Yong
Elephants can also hear across vast landscapes with their feet. Watch that next, then learn more with Ed Yong:
β€’Β How do animal eyes see the world?
β€’Β The electric eel and other animals that use electricity
β€’Β How does the animal kingdom sleep?
β€’Β Do animals have their own cultures?

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