13 Crazy Ways Animals Have A Sixth Sense

Almost everyone knows the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, a taste. But what about a sixth sense? While humans only have five senses, there are plenty of animals with a sixth sense and sometimes even an seventh. Non-human animals might not have the same brain power as us (though they are quite intelligent). But they do possess something we do not - intelligent animal perceptions. 

These strange animal abilities can only be described as a sixth sense. These evolutionary advantages have helped them survive for millions of years, and given them the almost "freaky" ability to have so-called animal premonitions. If it seems like animals can sense things we humans cannot, it's because they have the super ability to do just that. Here are some of the most amazing things animals can do with their sixth (and seventh) sense. 

Photo: Supratim Laha / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

  • Spiders Can Measure Their Prey And Predators Just By Sensing Them

    Spiders Can Measure Their Prey And Predators Just By Sensing Them
    Photo: Jon Sullivan / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Do these eight-legged critters possess all the powers of Spider-Man? No. But they do possess some truly incredible abilities that allow many to sit atop their food chain. All spiders contain a mechanoreceptor organ called slit sensilla, which allows them to sense the smallest physical deformations or strains on their exoskeleton. Spiders also use these organs to judge the size, weight, and perhaps even the kind of prey that gets caught in their web.

    Their slit sensilla can be so discerning that spiders can tell the difference between prey, a predator, or even a strong gust of wind.

  • Comb Jellyfish Can Tell Direction Without Having Eyes

    Jellyfish may be some of the oldest creatures living on planet earth, and are some of the first multi-celled organisms. This ancient animal evolved without eyes, arms, or even a central nervous system. Despite this, they manage to travel thousands of miles around the ocean each year. Specialized balance receptors called statocysts allow comb jellies to orient themselves and stay upright among the ocean’s currents. To make it even more impressive, comb jellies rely on their statocysts to better coordinate their cilia to reel in prey.

  • Pigeons Use Magnetoreception To Get Around

    Pigeons Use Magnetoreception To Get Around
    Photo: ianthes / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    While these birds are most well-known for being a nuisance in cities nearly everywhere, one reason pigeons are found in so many parts of the world is because they have incredible migratory power. Thanks to a special sense called magnetoreception, which is a structure in their beaks that contains iron, pigeons can detect the Earth’s magnetic field, allowing them to pinpoint exactly where they are and whey they need to go.

    This incredible skill is one of the reasons why homing pigeons were the first form of airmail, which dates back to 3,000 years ago. One of the coolest instances of homing pigeons was being used to proclaim the champions of the Olympic games in Ancient Greece.

  • The dolphin's incredible intelligence could be considered a sixth sense on it’s own, as they are possibly the smartest animals on the planet after humans. But their sixth sense is even more impressive. Dolphins' use of echolocation allow these animals to pinpoint what is in the water with them, including friends and foes. Echolocation relies on producing high-pitched clicks and squeals that travel through the ocean and bounce of obstructions, returning to a receptor in the dolphin’s head called a “melon.”

    This ability, which can be compared to sonar, allows dolphins to see the world around them in a three-dimensional representation without the use of their eyes. This is especially important for river dolphins who live in dark and murky rivers, as opposed to the wide-open ocean.

  • Pit Vipers Have Infrared Vision

    Pit Vipers Have Infrared Vision
    Photo: Supratim Laha / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Depending on how snakes capture their prey, they have differing abilities and killer instincts. The pit viper, which live in both North and South America, has a skill so amazing, it’s a part of its name.

    The “pit” in the venomous snake's name refers to two slits between the snake’s nostril and eye. These slits are heat-sensing organs that allow the snakes to see in infrared - meaning they can pick up on heat-sources even if in the middle of the night. The sense is so sensitive that pit vipers can accurately judge the size and distance of their prey using that sense alone.

  • Sharks and rays have evolved to detect their various prey in the depths below. Electroreception is the ability these animals have to detect electrical fields in the surrounding area. Thanks to their salt-water habitat, which acts as a strong conductor of electricity, sharks can detect their prey through the tiny electrical charges that occur when a fish - or something bigger - contracts its muscles.

    The sense is so powerful that some sharks can pick up a charge equivalent to two AA batteries being connected 1,000 miles apart. The hammerhead shark’s famous cranial shape is actually specifically designed to enhance their electroreception ability.