Animal super senses



The Doors of Animal Perception

by Benoit Grison, illustrations by Arnaud Rafaelian

Delachaux and Niestlé, 190 p. ill., € 22.90

Summer evenings in the countryside rustle with the chirping of locusts and crickets, lizards sneaking in, the wind in the dry grass. And yet our ears perceive only a tiny fraction of the sounds. Without even talking about the colors, the movements, the smells that escape us. In a book full of anecdotes, the biologist Benoit Grison takes you on a discovery of these worlds of sensations in animals. Animal worlds totally unknown to humans, for lack of having the same perceptions.

We learn, for example, that in catfish, social status corresponds to a smell. Let flies see 200 images per second, where our eyes can see only 24 per second. Let the loggerhead turtle, like others, migrate along the magnetic lines of the globe. Or that some ants in arid areas have an “integrated pedometer”, and memorize the number of steps to find their anthill, at night in the desert.

Certain senses well known to animals turn out to be completely inaccessible or greatly reduced in humans, such as the perception of pheromones or geomagnetism. Sometimes the synergy itself is inconceivable. The great gray owl, with its keen sight and fine hearing, for example coordinates these two senses: it “sees” the noise of its prey. If the tone of the work is sometimes learned, the illustrations full of humor (black) give its flavor to the book.

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