2003, Nature  -   5 Comments

SupersenseYou are starting a journey into a world of senses different from your own... We experience life through five main senses, but even these are better developed in some familiar animals.

Smell your way across an ocean as a salmon does. See, through the multi-aspected eye of a fly, what a human hand looks like when it is about to strike. Amazing effects reveal the secrets of animal perception.

Animals use senses of which humans are unaware. Sensitivity to the earth’s electromagnetic fields, or to weather pressure, can be used to aid navigation. Some animals can predict earthquakes. Predators put these senses to lethal use: a shark homes in on the body electricity of its prey, vampire bats detect the infra-red radiation of blood, and a rattlesnake sees a heat picture of its victim.

A vulture can spot a carcass from a great distance, the four-eyed fish can see above and below water simultaneously, a fly’s multi-faceted eye sees a very different world than a human eye, while other insects can see into ultra-violet light. And lions have an area on the retina which actually empathises with their prey.

Human ears have a limited range and are deaf to a low-register elephant conversation or the high-pitched squeaking of mice. Whales use sonar to communicate across hundreds of miles of sea, while spiders listen out for the wingbeats of prey and the kangaroo rat has hearing so sensitive that it can hear the rattlesnake’s strike – and avoid it. Birds, meanwhile, use sounds to detect changes in the weather and as an aid to navigation.

Smell is invaluable in hunting, protecting a species, mating… and navigation. Petrels use it to find fish in the open sea, springboks emit an ‘alarm’ odour to warn the herd of a predator, salamanders inject their females with aphrodisiac, and a salmon’s epic journey across the ocean to spawn and die is achieved through its sense of smell.

Courting, egg-laying, hibernation… The cycles of the earth, moon and sun are the rhythms which govern all life. Every animal’s perception of time varies, according to its heart rate.A shrew lives 30 times faster than an elephant, so time appears to pass more slowly. Also shown is the rare 17-year eruption of the US cicada.

The final film shows how each animal has a unique view of the world derived from a combination of different senses.The mind creates mental maps for navigational skills, which can also be affected by genetic programming. Other super-senses have resulted from the need to hunt or avoid becoming a meal. The mind decides what skills it needs to survive.

Ratings: 4.67/10from 12 users.

More great documentaries

5 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Jacek Walker

    So if sharks are so sensitive about the surroundings, are they also consciousness-sensitive about the fact what cruel and merciless creatures they actually are?
    But then who of us is not? Life on this planet seems to revolve around every living forms killing each other directly or indirectly.
    There's something stinky about this "life of forms" like Eckhart T. calls it. Sometimes I find it hard to call it life al all...

  2. DocViewer

    Depending on how you define "sense" humans have more than five. If "sense" means something like a channel for information from outside the body, then we have at least six. Your inner ear responds to gravity and helps you to orient yourself. That is external information entering your brain. If "sense" means something like a channel for information from outside the brain, then we have many more. For one example, we receive information about where our limbs are. Close your eyes and touch your nose, that is the sense that allows you to do that successfully.

  3. littlewildthang

    these are great! i reccomend it to anyone who enjoys wildlife documentaries as much as i do : ) i don't think they are on youtube, though.

  4. dano

    works fine in MN also.

  5. Levi Blackman

    Worked great here in Texas. Thanks!