You probably already know that when it comes to everything but intellectual pursuits and wearing cardigans in a knot over one's shoulders, animals have humans beat. All of your senses together can't match what a dog can pick up with its nose, for instance. But every now and then, an animal's sensory superiority goes above and beyond the usual and takes a turn for the bizarre and/or terrifying.
#6. Vampire Bats Have a Map of Your Veins
Vampire bats are the only mammals that subsist entirely on blood -- otherwise, we'd just call them "bats." Getting their nightly blood dinner, however, requires a supersense that you probably didn't even know existed, and it comes from a nose that looks like it fought leprosy and lost. By, like, a million.
Bats only appear on film as 1980s school photos.
That nose that God forgot actually does more than just invite business cards of bat plastic surgeons -- it can sense the heat of your blood flowing through your veins.
Its nose-lip combo contains infrared heat cells that can sense the warmth of the blood at a distance. That in itself is pretty amazing, because all other mammals (including you) have to, you know, actually touch things with their skin to know they're hot. What if you could just sense that the barrel end of your sister's curling iron was 150 degrees before you accidentally sat on it? But the fact that vampire bats sense heat with their face holes isn't the crazy part.
It's the fact that they refuse to eat or drink unless it's served to them in a sterling silver bowl.
The crazy part is that they know where the best veins are.
Their system for heat detection is so efficient that they don't waste time tooth-stabbing the hairy parts over and over again to tap a vein, which is impressive, considering that they snack on animals as big as cows. The vampire bat hones right in on the vein, first time, every time.
"Gross, these pork chops are still raw!"
So, it's kind of like if the Predator's infrared vision didn't just show body heat, but actually showed him the best possible places to stab you.
#5. Catfish Are Giant Swimming Tongues
Yes, catfish are just huge, fish-shaped tongues, continuously licking our waterways.
The average person has about 10,000 taste buds, all in about the same place -- the mouth. According to one neurophysiologist who happens to be a catfish expert, a small 6-inch catfish can have over 250,000 taste receptors located all over its body. Or as he put it, it'd be like "if the tip of your tongue grew out and covered your body." Which is to say, you cannot touch a catfish somewhere where it cannot taste you.
"Our love tastes like sunscreen!"
Can you imagine walking through a room and tasting THE ROOM as you went by? That's what it's like to be a catfish ... all day and all night. Water pollution? Tasted it. The collective pees and poops of all the water animals in its vicinity? He tastes that shit in his sleep -- literally. There is nowhere for this animal to hide from the taste of the nastiness around him. Now think about that time you shoved a catfish down your pants. It suddenly makes that seem kind of weird, doesn't it?
Of course, the catfish's sense of taste is how it locates and tracks down its food. Most of its taste buds are concentrated on its Fu Manchu mustache*, which kind of acts like a taste antenna as it swims through the current, tasting for the putrid slime trail of some prey it can swallow up.
Or gauging the success level of a big ol' fish orgy.
*Yes, yes, we know, they're called barbels, but for our purposes, it's a Fu Manchu mustache. A tongue mustache that licks everything, all the time.
#4. A Narwhal's Tusk Is a Huge Sensory Organ
For years, scientists have wondered what the hell was up with narwhals, the bizarre creatures that look like manatees, only with gigantic horns growing from their skulls. Are they the unicorns of the sea, and if so, do you need a human virgin to trap them? These are the questions that even science can't answer.
Though we do know that one of them is guarding the armor we need to slay the ice demon.
What we have figured out is what's up with the narwhal's single tusk. For one thing, it's not a tusk -- it's a tooth. One long, weird, spiral tooth. But what we didn't know until recently was that the narwhal's snaggletooth is covered with 10 million nerve endings. It's not a weapon or a hunting tool or a fireplace poker, as previously assumed. It's a sensory organ capable of things we're just now starting to figure out.
"Sweet Neptune, you should be imprisoned for what you've done with that hand."
For example, tests show that these narwhals can detect changes in water salinity with their tooth sabers. How is measuring salt content anything other than completely useless for anyone not worried about hypertension? It turns out that changes in salinity affect when water freezes. And if you're an air breather making a living around shifting ice floes, then knowing that you can get back to the surface is a real plus.
So narwhals have developed an ability to forecast ice formations using the mother of all bucked teeth. They can also detect temperature and water pressure, and, when it's held above the water, the tusk may even be able to detect barometric pressure. All of this with a single, gigantic tooth.
"It's normally much longer, but this water is freezing!"