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Animal Senses

How do animals sense

Sensory organs
perceive stimuli (light,
sounds, etc.) with a
receptor cell. The
receptor cell sends
signals to the brain
where they are
processed and

Animal Senses
Each type of animal is equipped with its
own sensory receptors each animal
perceives its environment differently.

Animal Senses
Animal senses are more varied and
sharper than human senses.
Most sensory receptors are found on the
head of an animalin most cases, the
head is the first part of an animal to enter
a new environment

Four Basic Modalities

Photoreception response to light

Response to movement.
This includes hearing, vibration, touch,
balance, etc.

Response to heat!

Insect Senses - Vision

Compound eyes - made up of 100s 1000s
of lenses
Each individual eye is not as accurate as a
vertebrate eye, but the compound eyes
taken together are better at detecting
Respond to minute changes in color and
motionthe brain produces 1 detailed

Response to chemical energy, including
smell and taste

Insect Chemical Receptors

For taste and smell
Found on mouthparts, antennae and legs.
A flys foot can tell whether a liquid
contains sugar or salt.

Sensory Hairs
Found mostly on head and legs
Can detect movement in surrounding air
or water, and can detect certain

Sensory Hairs detect

These are odor producing molecules that
act as chemical messages.
They are synthesized by an individual,
released into the environment and change
the behavior of another individual.

Sensory Hairs detect

1000 different insect pheremones known
Most are produced by females and are
Species specific sex attractants*.

Animal Senses
Specific examples:
A homing pigeon senses changes in
altitude as minute as four millimeters.
Pigeons also see ultraviolet light and hear
extremely low-frequency sound.

Animals detect magnetic fields

Used for navigation by pigeons and other birds,
honeybees, sea turtles, etc.

What happens when an animal

that navigates using magnetic
fields has a magnet glued to its

Pit Vipers Detect Heat

Pits are located on head of pit viper
Pits contain receptor cells that can detect
infrared radiation (heat)
A pit viper is able to see a fuzzy image of
a warm object a pit viper can strike at a
mouse in complete darkness.

Design an experiment to test if a

pit is actually sensing heat.
Is it possible the snakes pit is simply
sensing the smell of another animal?
Hint: Use a light bulb in your experimental

Elephants Detect Infrasounds

Infrasound = sound too low to be heard by
the human ear
Elephants call to each other with
infrasound and stamp their feet which
create sound waves that travel through
Infrasound can travel exceptionally long

Elephants Detect Infrasounds

It is hypothesized that this allows
elephants to coordinate movement when
they are miles apart.
Large elephant ears and feet (vibrations in
ground) are the sense organs*

Animals Detect Ultrasounds

Ultrasounds = sounds too high to be heard
by humans
Bats, dolphins, etc.*

Design an experiment to test if

bats actually use ultrasounds for
Hint: Use cottonballs as part of your
experimental set-up.

Aquatic Predators detect

Electric Fields
Sharks (and others) can detect electrical
activity in the muscles of passing prey.

Sharks and Aquarium

What problem might a
shark have in a large
tank in an aquarium?

Animals detect movement

An animals ear detects sound by the
movement of sound waves through the air
or water.
Mammals have bones in their middle ear
that transmit the information carried in the
sound waves to the brain.

Animals detect movement

This includes stimulus detected by the
lateral line system in fish and other
aquatic vertebrates.
This system detects movements and
pressure changes in the surrounding

Animals and vision

Some animals can sense parts of the
electromagnetic spectrum that are
invisible to the human eye.

Human (and most vertebrate)

Vertebrate eyes are camera eyes (vs.
compound eyes of insects). Focuses
incoming light onto a layer of photoreceptor cells on back of retina.

Vertebrate Eyes
Iris: The colored diaphragm in the anterior
chamber of the eyeball which contracts and
expands to adjust for light intensity.
Pupil: The opening in the center of the iris
through which light passes.
Lens: The transparent, dual-convex body which
focuses light rays onto the retina. It is normally
capable of changing shape to allow the eye to
focus on both near and distant images.

Vertebrate Eye
Retina Found on the back of the eye.
Sensory cells contain light absorbing
pigment (a molecule that absorbs only
certain wavelengths of visible light and
reflects or transmits other wavelengths)
cones = color vision
rods = light vision

Vertebrate Eye
The optic nerve attaches to retina and
there are no photo-receptor cells at that
location creating a blind spot.
Adaptations, such as the eye, (a
characteristic that makes one individual
more fit than another) do not have to be
Experiment with YOUR blind spot

Cats Eyes
A reflective layer behind the cat's retina
called the tapetum reflects incoming light
and bounces it back off the cones, making
more use of the existing light.
The tapetum makes a cat's eyes look like
shiny green orbs at night.

Vertebrates and Taste

Taste is a chemical sense perceived by
specialized receptor cells that make up taste
Flavor is a function of both taste and smell.

Vertebrates and Smell

Inside the nose is a big area called the
nasal cavity.
On the roof of the nasal cavity are special
sensory smell cells called olfactory
receptor cells.

Vertebrates and Smell

Smells are in the form of a gas that is
breathed in when animals inhale
The scent molecules in the gas pass by the
olfactory receptor cells on the roof of the
nasal cavity.
The smell cells send the signal up a nerve
fiber to the brain.
This allows vertebrates to react quickly to

Other Senses
Nociceptors Sense pain
Thermoreceptors Detect changes in