Do Animals Have Sixth Sense?

Yes, while humans traditionally have five senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell – many animals possess one or more extra senses. These might include detecting electrical fields or heat to find prey, or magnetic fields in order to navigate.

Listen up

Big ears
Mammals collect sound using large external ear flaps. Hares can even turn their ears to scan for sound.

Hares can turn their ears to scan for sound
Hares can turn their ears to scan for sound. Photo: pixabay

Dish face
The great grey owl’s large dish-shaped face channels sound waves into its ears.

Great gray owl dish-shaped face
Great grey owl. Photo: David Burt – Flickr

Frogs do not have protruding ears, but large eardrums behind each eye.

frog eardrum behind ear
Frogs have large eardrums behind each eye. Photo: Flickr

Insect ears
The cricket has an “ear” just below the knee of both its front legs.

cricket has ears below the knee of its front legs
Cricket has ears below the knee of its front legs. Photo: Flickr

Keep in touch

Animals use touch to find food, communicate, or navigate in the dark.

The sensitive hairs on a spider’s legs help it detect prey.

The star-nosed mole uses the 22 pink, fleshy tentacles on its nose to hunt for worms and leeches.

Snakes press their lower jaw to the ground to sense vibrations.

A raft spider sits on dry land and dangles its four front legs in the water to detect prey.

Mammals like to caress each other for comfort.

Tell me more: finding the way

Migrating animals often travel on long, dangerous journeys from breeding to feeding grounds. They rely on a variety of senses to find their way.

Sight: Using visual clues such as coastlines and mountain ranges, bar-headed geese (pictured) fly over the Himalayas twice a year to avoid storms in winter and monsoon rains in summer.

Smell: Salmon use their excellent sense of smell to find the stream they were born in, which can be up to 3,200 km (1,988 miles) inland.

Sound: Baleen whales listen to the sound of waves crashing on beaches to help them navigate around islands.

Heat: When spiny lobsters feel the waters cooling, they know it is time to move to deeper waters to avoid the stormy autumn season.

Touch: Boree moth caterpillars leave a trail of silk for their siblings to follow as they swarm off in search of food.


Many animals have what is called a Jacobson’s organ located on the roof of the animal’s mouth. This organ senses chemicals in the air and is named after Danish scientist Ludwig Jacobson.

A tasty smell?

Flies have taste receptors all over their bodies
Flies have taste receptors all over their bodies. Photo: Pexels

A sense of smell helps animals to find food or sniff out a mate from a distance, while taste helps them to check things out up close.

Flies have taste receptors all over their bodies, from their wings to their feet.

A catfish’s whiskers are covered taste buds and it can identify another catfish by smell alone.

Whales have no sense of smell, but a very good sense of taste.

Rats smell in stereo and, in single sniff, can work out exactly where a smell is coming from because the odor reaches one nostril around 10 milliseconds.

Why senses make sense?

An animal’s survival depends on it being able to sense what is happening around it.

Finding food
The duck-billed platypus uses receptors in its bill to sense the electric fields of underwater prey.

duck-billed platypus
Duck-billed platypus

Feeling chilly is the sign for some animals, like the dormouse, that it is time to hibernate.

Hibernated dormouse after feeling chilly

Avoiding predators
Sensitive whiskers help nocturnal mammals, like the rat, avoid predators in the dark.

Sensitive whiskers help rats avoid predators in the dark
Sensitive whiskers help rats avoid predators in the dark.

Detecting injury
Senses inform duck its wing is broken, so its body can begin healing processes.

 Senses help ducks in the healing processes
Senses help ducks in the healing processes. Photo: pixabay

Finding a mate
Hyenas stick out their tongues to taste information about other individuals.

Hyenas tongue help them find information about other individuals
Hyenas tongue help them find information about other individuals.

The migration of monarch butterflies is triggered by changes in temperature and the length of the day.

Monarch butterflies migrate with seasonal change
Monarch butterflies migrate with seasonal change. Photo: pixabay

You won’t believe it!

Scientists have discovered that cats can heal themselves by purring, as vibrations between 20-140 Hz can help heal fractures, mend torn muscles, and relieve pain.

Eye to eye

large red eye of nocturnal tree frog
nocturnal tree frog

The large red eyes of the nocturnal tree frog help it to see in the dark and may startle predators if the frog is disturbed during the day, giving it a second to leap away.

Chameleon. Photo: pixabay

The chameleon‘s protruding eyes can roll from side to side, each independent of the other, so the animal work out exactly where prey is.

cuttlefish human like eyes
Cuttlefish have human like eyes. Photo: Flickr

The eyes of the cuttlefish are very similar to human eyes, except for the distinctive curved black pupil. They have excellent vision.

Hoverfly. Photo: pixabay

Like many insects, the hoverfly has a compound eye made up of many thousand lenses, which enable it to spot the slightest movement.

southern ground hornbill
Southern ground hornbill. Photo: Flickr

The southern ground hornbill long eyelashes to protect the eye from the Sun and dust as it forages for food on the ground with its beak.

tiger eyes
Tiger eyes have a mirror-like layer in their eyes. Photo: pixaby

Cats, such as the tiger, are able to well in the dark because they have a mirror-like layer in their eyes.

Hot stuff

Pit vipers have heat-sensitive organs between the eyes and the nostrils with around 7,000 nerve endings. Using these organs, they create a “heat picture” of warm-blooded prey when hunting at night.

How bats see in the dark

Bat. Photo: YouTube/screenshot

Bats produce a loud, incredibly high pitched sound by rushing air from their lungs past their vibrating vocal chords.

The squeaky sound wave they’ve created rushes forward at the speed of sound – 1,193 kph (741 mph) – and bounces back off any objects around them.

Bats direct the echo into their inner ear using the strange folds on their nose and ears.

Then they word out how long it takes the noise to return to build up a picture of how far away objects are, and if any of them are prey.

And, keep calling until they are close enough to grab themselves a tasty snack.


Bats’ calls are ultrasonic, which means they’re so high-pitched human ears can’t hear them. The calls are also so loud the bats risk deafening themselves, so their ears have special muscles that close to protect the ear and then open to listen to the echo.