A dolphin that echolocates a human in the water can perceive not only the human’s outer form but also what’s inside, including the skeleton and lungs. Tree frog embryos – settled inside their unhatched eggs – can sense the vibrations of an attacking predator and release an enzyme from their face that dissolves the envelopes that house them, allowing them to pop out and escape .
The fact that I’ve surprised myself so many times while reading “An Immense World,” Ed Yong’s new book on animal senses, is a testament to his exceptional gifts as a storyteller – although that may say so too something unfortunate about me. I marveled at these details because I found them bizarre; but it turns out that if I try to broaden my perspective a bit, they’re not that weird after all. One of Yong’s themes is that much of what we think of as “extrasensory” is “just sensory.” A term like “ultrasound” is “anthropocentric assignment”. The upper frequency limit for the average human ear may be a measly 20 kilohertz, but most mammals can hear well in the ultrasonic range.
In an age of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us tell the story well.