Amazing Animal Senses

By Bridget Sharry, Community Relations Manager at Tanglewood Nature Center

This summer is a perfect one for exploring our senses – we have the time and the space to deeply reflect on how we perceive the world around us! Humans are not the only animals that engage with our environment through vision, hearing, feeling, smell, and taste. Meet a few fellow creatures at Tanglewood Nature Center with Bridget Sharry and compare whether their senses are finer or duller than our own.

I don’t think anyone was surprised to learn that owl hearing is stronger than human hearing, but you might be surprised to ponder the ways that snakes can “see” heat without using their eyeballs at all! And many animals have senses that humans don’t – tarantula hairs can sense vibrations like a cat’s whiskers, and even better than that, many animals ranging from arachnids to avians can see colors (like ultraviolet) that humans cannot see. 

Science and art give us more ways to learn about and appreciate the unique and rich lived experiences of others. We can study a scorpion and determine that their skin “sees” ultraviolet light, and do experiments to confirm that owls can detect tiny details in nearly pitch-black conditions. But we’ll never quite be able to know what it’s like to be a spider taking in a spider’s life, or what a snake is really thinking about and how a snake imagines her world.

There are so many specialized sensory experiences of the world that we’ll just never know and never be able to try out ourselves! That’s a fun mystery for us. We can use our imaginations and empathy, and keep on learning about our planet all summer long and throughout our lives. 

Here are links to additional resources and information:

Making Sense of Animal Senses by Nancy Volk

WSKG PBS – How Animals Use Their Senses to Find Food

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