Some animals have Superman-like senses. What do those senses do?

A farm animal sniffs and licks a human hand
Photo: Anna Jurkovska/Shutterstock

Animals use their senses to detect other animals, communicate and do some wild things. Can you identify the super senses of these animals?

Question 1 of 13

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A tan-colored spider sitting in its web
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Many spiders have a set of organs in their exoskeleton called the slit sensilla. What do they help spiders do?

Slit sensilla are the key vibration receptors in spiders. These receptors are so sensitive that spiders may actually be able to not just determine if something is caught in its web but the creature's size and weight as well.

Question 2 of 13

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Pond loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) in a tank
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This tiny eel-like aquatic critter is known for its ability to detect what occurrence?

Members of the Misgurnus genus, like the one pictured here, have a swim bladder that makes them attuned to changes in not only water pressure but also barometric pressure, like when storms are approaching. Since they become more active due to changes in barometric pressure, they've become known as weatherfish.

Question 3 of 13

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A seal with prominent whiskers in water
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Seals don't have echolocation to help them hunt in depths of the ocean. Which part of their bodies do they rely on to find fish to eat?

Seal use their whiskers to follow the trails of fish that are swimming up to 600 feet away. The whiskers are so sensitive and accurate that seals can even hunt while blindfolded.

Question 4 of 13

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A close up of a star-nosed mole's snout
Photo: US National Parks Service/Wikimedia Commons
The star-nosed mole has 22 tiny trunks at the end of its snout for keeping tabs on its surroundings. How many total nerve endings are there on these trunks?

Those trunks, which the moles sweep like a high-speed broom, contain nearly 100,000 nerve endings. That's six times as many touch receptors as the human hand!

Question 5 of 13

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African giant pouched rat sniffs the ground
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Rats like the African giant pouched rat have a super-sniffer that we humans use to find what sort of buried items?

Specially trained rats can locate land mines with their keen sense of smell and even walk over the land mines without triggering them. They're so efficient that they can cover 2,000 square feet in 20 minutes. It would take a human with a metal detector four days to search the same area.

Question 6 of 13

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A penguin swims underwater
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Penguins have to be able to see well on land to find breeding sites and in water to find food and avoid predators. How are they able to do that?

Penguins have a flattened cornea that refracts light less than a human eye does. Coupled with their eye muscles that allow them to change the shape of the eyes' lens, penguins can focus in and out of water with ease.

Question 7 of 13

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Madecassia rothschildi jewel beetle
Photo: Debivort/Wikimedia Commons
Jewel beetles' distinct and beautiful colors aren't the most notable thing about them. They can detect forest fires up to 7 miles away using what feature?

Beetles in the Buprestidae family have thoracic infrared organs that pick up the radiation emitted by forest fires. This is a useful trait since the beetle requires recently burned wood to lay their eggs.

Question 8 of 13

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A blue dragonfly perched on a plant
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Dragonflies are able to determine if an insect is prey or not within 500ths of a second. How are they able to do this?

Taking in the world at 300 frames per second (humans see about 60 frames per second), things seem to move very slowly to the dragonfly. That gives it plenty of time to see its prey.

Question 9 of 13

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A cat with its ears turned outward to hear
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While cats and humans are roughly the same when it comes to hearing things on the lower end of the sound spectrum, cats hear better than we do when it comes to higher-pitched sounds. How many octaves above us can they hear?

Cats are able to hear 1.6 octaves above humans. In fact, they can hear 1 octave above a dog, too.

Question 10 of 13

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A set of fake human teeth, gums, and a tongue
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Which of these animals has the most taste buds?

Catfish have the most taste buds of the animals listed here. They can have as many 175,000 taste buds along their scales and whiskers. Rabbits have 17,000 taste buds, pigs have around 15,000 and chickens have 24.

Question 11 of 13

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Mantis shrimp underwater
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Among its many distinguishing features, the mantis shrimp is known for its eyes that have up to 16 photoreceptors that can detect a range of colors. How does this ability help males know when a female is ready to mate?

The mantis shrimps activate biofluorescence during mating rituals, and its wavelength matches that of wavelengths detected by the shrimps' eye pigments.

Question 12 of 13

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A dog tilts its head and sticks out its tongue
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Dogs are anecdotally considered reliable indicators of what kind of events?

Since ancient Greece, dogs (among other animals) have been recorded as behaving strangely in the time leading up to an earthquake. One study has suggested dogs' keen sense of hearing alerts them to the impending temblor.

Question 13 of 13

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A hamster sits on a rock
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On what frequency do hamsters communicate?

Hamsters' sense of hearing is so good they're able to hear on the ultrasonic frequency, and so they communicate with one another on that frequency as well. Given their highly developed sense of hearing, this is also why hamsters like quiet homes.

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