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Animals That Can Detect What Humans Can’t

Animals have always been superior to human beings when it comes to basic senses like hearing, sight, and smell. That is why we have spent centuries trying to learn from their abilities and put them to good use. Scientists hope to gather more insight by monitoring the behavior of such animals. But for now, earthquakes are still one of the natural disasters that are hardest to detect ahead of time, at least for human beings.

Birds

Birds

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Many bird species, especially in the northern hemisphere, migrate when winter rolls around and food becomes scarce. Some even manage to fly thousands of miles away from their breeding grounds but return when the climate becomes warmer. Birds accomplish this incredible feat by detecting magnetic fields and using them for navigation.

Scientists figured out that birds can sense the strength and direction of magnetic fields. Evidence suggested that cells capable of picking up this information were located in the bird’s inner ear.

Dolphins

Dolphins

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These aquatic mammals are known for their ability to emit sound waves and detect information by interpreting the returning echo. These waves of sound are emitted by an organ in their heads, which works like radar. The main purpose of this ability is to inform dolphins about surrounding threats and prey, but it can even be used to detect pregnancies. According to experts, echolocation may allow dolphins to detect a pregnant woman’s developing fetus.

Rats

Rats

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Rats have been trained to detect actual landmines since 1997. Specifically, the African giant pouched rats. These large rodents have poor vision, which is redeemed by an incredible sense of smell. After nine months of training, the rats are capable of covering far more ground than humans, searching over 185 square meters (2,000 ft2) in 20 minutes. The same task takes people up to four days since they risk life and limb.

Honeybees

Honeybees

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Honeybees can be trained to find land mines by associating the smell of sugar with explosives. These bees can detect the scent of TNT from 4.5 kilometers (2.8 mi) away. Thermal cameras are used to track their movements. The advantage of using honeybees for this purpose is a lower cost than rats and dogs. Honeybees also recruit and teach other bees to do the same naturally by themselves. Honeybees even hold the Guinness World Record for the smallest animal used in detecting landmines.

Cats

Cats

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Cat owners have been reporting that their pets have healing powers for ages. While cats do not have the ability to cure sickness, they are definitely capable of detecting it.

Diseases cause chemical changes in the body, and cats use their acute sense of smell to identify whether someone is sick or not. Our feline friends gather more information by sensing changes in our mood and behavior. They can also detect illness in other animals.

One cat has even “predicted” 25 deaths in a nursing home.

Snakes

Snakes

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Snakes have holes in their heads called pit organs. These pits allow them to detect infrared radiation emitted from warm bodies up to 1 meter (3.3 ft) away. The somatosensory system, of which the pit organ is a part, does not use eyes to receive signals. Snakes detect heat rather than see light photons. The same system is responsible for detecting pain, touch, and temperature. Pit membrane tissue is heated up by infrared radiation. When the tissue reaches a threshold temperature, an electrical signal is triggered by ions flowing into the snake’s nerve cells.

Pigs

Pigs

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Pigs are commonly used to find one of the most expensive foods—truffles. Researchers have figured out why pigs are so good at finding this fungus. Truffles contain large amounts of a substance that is also synthesized in boar testicles.

The substance is secreted in the saliva of boars looking to breed. Females are attracted to the musky scent emanating from their saliva foam.

Fish

Fish

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Flow sensors were identified on the surfaces of nearly all species of fish. The sensor network helps in gathering information about the flow of water. Researchers put their efforts into studying the sensory organ system of fish. This system detects vibrations and movement in surrounding water. Another point of focus was canals, which open via several pores. Location of canal system was found on top of the head and in other areas where strong pressure variation occurs.

Elephants

Elephants

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With a set of ears that large, elephants obviously have an incredible sense of hearing. Studies have revealed that elephants are capable of detecting a rainstorm approaching from roughly 241 kilometers (150 miles) away. After seven years of tracking the movements of nine elephants from different herds with GPS, researchers found evidence that suggested changes in the elephants’ course during the region’s rainy season. Researchers observed their movement toward thunderstorms hundreds of miles off, days before rain occurred.

Dogs

Dogs

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When talking about animal detection powers, you have to bring up dogs. Being loyal and easy to train, dogs are the perfect candidates for any situation that calls for the superior senses of animals. Medical detection dogs use their noses to find illness in people. Detecting odor concentrations as little as one part per trillion allows them to sense the smell created by diseases. This can be compared to detecting a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in two Olympic swimming pools.

Dogs can also find the exact location of a truffle rather than destroy the environment by scraping everywhere around it. Explosives are another item on the list of things frequently detected by canines. Similarly, they are used for drug searches.

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