10 Unbelievable Animal Super-Senses

Every animal is unique, but some have amazing senses that they use to find food or evade predators.

Oct 1, 2023By Lisa Szymanski
facts animal super senses

Our senses include sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell, but what if animals had super-senses such as detecting electromagnetic fields or smelling water? For animals to find food or dodge predators, they need exceptional senses to help them get by. Bats can use echolocation to hunt the tiniest insects, while squid can control how they process light to improve their vision. These are only a few unique abilities that animals use to adapt to their environments. In this guide, we uncover 10 unbelievable facts about animal super-senses.

1. Bees are Magnetic

honeybee visiting a yellow flower
A honeybee uses special adaptations to find food.

Bees are always on the go as they work hard to collect food from flowers to help their hive. These social insects are leaders in pollination, which means that they have super senses of taste, sight, and smell to pick their favorite blooms. There is, however, one feature that bees have that you might think is a superpower. A bee can sense our planet’s electromagnetic field. They have special adaptations in their abdomens that pick up magnetic fields, and they use this special sense to find their way back home.

2. Elephants Can Smell Water

two elephants communicating with each other
Elephants can communicate with vibrations.

There’s a reason that elephants have such big noses! Their trunks give them a super-sense of smell that they use to find food and water. In fact, each elephant has thousands of sniffer sensors in its nose, allowing it to smell water from 10-12 miles away. Elephants are so good at picking up scents that they beat dogs for the top spot in super-scent detection. Along with their smell, elephants have unique ways of communicating and use their large feet and trunks to understand and send vibrations to one another.

3. Jumping Spiders Have Revolutionary Sight

jumping spider eyes close up
Jumping spiders have a wide range of sight.

What if you could see everything around you all the time? Well, jumping spiders have panoramic vision thanks to the eight eyes on their heads. Although most types of spiders have eight eyes, the jumping spider’s eyes are positioned in a way that creates a wide range of sight. This arachnid’s vision not only helps it spot its next meal, but it also detects predators that are lurking about. This extraordinary ability gives the jumping spider quite an advantage over its prey, as it can move in any direction with ease.

4. Snakes Detect Scents with Their Tongues

speckled rattlesnake with its tongue out
Sensors in a snake’s tongue help it smell prey.

When a snake lifts its head and flicks its tongue back and forth, it is usually looking for prey. A snake can taste what it eats, but it also relies on its tongue to detect other living creatures in its environment. It does this by “tasting” molecules in the air that are produced by animals, including mice and other snakes. A snake’s keen sense of smell is due to special sensory vessels inside their mouths that pick up a scent. Their tongues are an important part of tracking exactly where their prey is located.

5. The Platypus has an Electrifying Secret

platypus eating a worm
A platypus catches a worm underwater.

The platypus may be a strange-looking creature, but it has an impressive sixth sense. They are equipped to find aquatic prey by sensing the electromagnetic vibrations that are emitted by other animals. The electric sensors that are found in their mouths are hypersensitive. This means that they can identify exactly where their prey is just by using their bills. When organisms such as snails, beetles, or tadpoles move in the water, they produce electric pulses that are quickly sensed by the platypus. They follow the pulse and swim toward their prey, catching them with ease.

6. The Touchy-Feely Star-Nosed Mole

star nosed mole surfacing from underground
The unusual-looking star-nose mole has the most sensitive nose.

The star-nosed mole has very poor eyesight and few defense mechanisms, but it does have a powerful nose. What look like small fingers on the tips of their snouts are called tentacles. These tentacles form a bright pink star that contains thousands of nerves. The star-nosed mole has the highest level of touch sensitivity of all the animals in the world. The way we use our eyes to navigate our surroundings, the mole uses its amazing nose. They find food, and they learn about their environment simply by using their tentacled snout.

7. Catfish Have a Super Sense of Taste

close up of a catfish
Catfish have an incredible sense of taste.

Can you imagine having the ability to taste food with your entire body? The catfish makes our list of animals with super-senses because of their amazing taste buds! The whiskered fish has taste-detecting receptors or cells located all over its body. No matter which direction it swims in or how murky the water is, its receptors make it easier to determine if food is nearby. Catfish swim in some of the murkiest freshwater in the world, so they may not always see their food. Their super-sense of taste helps them find prey more efficiently.

8. Bats Use Echolocation to See

a bat flying in the air
Bats can bounce sound around to spot prey.

Bats are often portrayed as frightening creatures that only come out at night. Despite fears around bats, they are actually incredible animals that use a super-sense of echolocation to hunt their food. These winged animals live on a diet of bugs, including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes. To track insects, during the day or night, they create a sound that has a boomerang effect when it hits an object. This process of echolocation tells the bat where food and objects are hiding, which helps them expose prey while memorizing their path back home.

9. The Octopus Has Three Super Senses

red octopus
An octopus feels and tastes its environment with its tentacles.

An octopus is a highly intelligent and complex animal. They have three spectacular senses that help them with sight, touch, and taste. The octopus has the ability to manipulate the amount of natural light that enters its eyes. This process is known as "polarized vision" and drastically enhances the visual acuity of octopuses, even in dark conditions. Their tentacles contain touch and taste receptors, so they can taste objects using their arms. The sensory receptors located at the end of their tentacles act as their very own extended noses and assist with smelling things around them.

10. Sharks are All About Smell

shark swimming
Sharks are known for their strong sense of smell.

Most sharks have an impeccable sense of smell and can detect even the slightest scents in the water from over 1,000 ft away. Their unbelievable sense of smell is because most of the shark’s brain can recognize different scents. Inside the nose of a shark, the olfactory cells are so sensitive that they can track the scent of prey to its precise location. Sharks are described as having stereo-olfactory senses. This means that each nasal cavity can process different odors and decide which direction the scent is coming from. It certainly helps these apex predators hunt across the vast ocean.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.