The Earth is full of different smells, vibrations, tastes, and electric and magnetic fields — but “every living being perceives only a very small part of a very large world,” says science journalist Young, writing for The Atlantic. So all animals lived in their own unique sensory bubble.
Scientist Cliodhna Quigley of the Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna also explains how the concept of animals can be different – even within animal species. As part of the “Comparative Aesthetics” research project supported by the Vienna Fund for Science, Research and Technology (WWTF), a research team headed by Quigley is investigating the concept of beauty in animals using laughing pigeons. In the video, Quigley told ORF.at: “It cannot be assumed that every female will find the same male attractive.”
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For the sensory bladders of animals, the science journalist uses the term “environment” which was coined by Estonian zoologist Jakob von Uexküll in 1909. Uexkull not only means the environment of the animal, but specifically that part of the environment that the animal experiences and perceives. Oxkull considered animals to be sentient beings — and his idea of animal “sense bubbles” lay dormant for nearly a century before modern scientists picked them up, according to The Washington Post.
Catfish taste with the body
In the past few decades, research has mushroomed into the way animals see the world. Young summarizes the latest scientific discoveries in sensory biology and advances meaning by meaning – the book begins with smell and taste and ends with magnetic and electric fields.
It explains how the senses work – sometimes explanations go beyond biochemistry – and allows the reader to imagine what it might feel like to be another animal. And it highlights surprising things: Even before tree frog embryos hatch from their eggs, they can distinguish between harmless and dangerous vibrations. Once they hear the low frequencies of the snakes attacking, the frog embryos release enzymes in their faces that break down the eggs – and the tadpoles can escape.
The science journalist describes catfish as “swimming tongues” because their bodies are covered with taste buds from mouth to tail – they have the greatest sense of taste in nature. On the other hand, crocodiles can see the best vibrations on the surface of the water with highly sensitive bulges on their mouths, thus tracking their prey.
The senses are mysterious
It turns out time and time again that scientists are just beginning to understand animals’ senses – for example when it comes to estimating the colors seen by another animal. For example, the vision of mantis shrimp: While about four to seven different color receptors in the eye are sufficient to capture the entire spectrum (two to four are common in the animal kingdom), some species of mantis shrimp contain twelve classes of photoreceptors, As explains an international research team led by biologist Justin Marshall, head of the Sensory Neurobiology Group Research Laboratory at the University of Queensland (Australia). The scientist suspects that the mantis prawns do not differentiate shades, but their eyes do exactly the opposite, that is, combine several forms in only twelve colors.
To understand an animal’s ecology, Young writes, one must first understand “what he uses his senses for.” The giant squid, for example, has the largest and most sensitive eyes in the animal kingdom (their diameter ranges from 25 to 30 cm) and lives in one of the darkest habitats on Earth – the deep sea. Young wonders why they have big eyes.
It’s the brightly lit clouds surrounding the sperm whales that the giant squid can see with their own eyes – even from 130 meters away. For example, while toothed whales track their prey using sonar and blue whales survive on microorganisms, the ability to see “glow whales” in the dark is essential to the giant squid’s survival.
Understand “animals as animals”.
At the end of his book, Young points out the consequences of man’s impact on planet Earth on animals. For example, when approximately seven million birds die each year in the United States and Canada due to collisions with transmission towers, their flashing red lights disturb their direction at night. “We’ve made it harder than ever to have other animals,” the journalist writes. With the “amazing senses of animals,” Young succeeded in creating a science-based account that wanted to understand “animals as animals,” as the journalist initially asserted. A book that isn’t about “excellence, it’s about diversity,” according to Young.
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