Built to Discover

Eyes, Ears, & Beyond

To navigate, hunt, and communicate, living things must decode the mysterious world around them. Extraordinary eyes and ears certainly come in handy for finding food and avoiding disaster.

But a few of these creatures collect clues using astonishing equipment that goes far beyond the range of our fives senses to detect forces we can only imagine.

  • Pheromones: some animals like the Giant Silkworm Moth use enormous antennae to detect the odor of a potential mate. A male can sniff out a single molecule from a female miles away!
  • Electrical Fields: other animals like the Hammerhead Shark use special pores in their snouts to sense the electrical field given off by the heartbeat of their prey.
  • Magnetic Fields: the brain tissue of certain animals like sea turtles contains magnetite, which acts as a natural compass and helps the animal to navigate accurately over immense distances.

Some researchers have studied these extra-sensory systems and have learned to replicate them in human devices. For example, the “UltraCane” uses echolocation like a bat to help blind people “see” what’s ahead and above, and an echolocating bike currently in development can provide even more independence.