Do You See What I See?

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This morning I attended ‘Do you see what I see: An exploration of animal senses’ at the Old College, an event organised by Katherine Cockle a Masters student at King’s Buildings. The event set out to enlighten the audience on sensory, some descriptions of the varying kinds, how it differs between species and the practical applications it performs. There were also a couple of opportunities to test our senses through experiments, using our senses of hearing and smell. After the lecture, we were treated to a flying display by a bird of prey to show us how they hunt in the wild!

The event, which was open to all those within the university and members of the public, began with a description of how complex and evolved the sensory system is and how it is essentially there to ensure survival and success and is highly species specific.

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FACT OF THE DAY 1: Crickets hear from their knees!

Now there may have been some things you may have known already, like there are five well-known senses ie Vision, hearing, smell, taste and hearing. But there are others you may not have thought of like balance, temperature, limb position, pain and internal ones like hunger or thirst. There are also non-human ones like, to name three, echo location, used by dolphins, electroreception, used by sharks, and magnetoreception, this is the one you see when birds navigate. But no one knows how they do it! The world needs a bit of mystery though.

We were then told how senses can be used for attraction and deterrence. Examples of this are a male peacock doing his ‘thang’ with his display of colourful feathers or a cobra politely suggesting you may want to leave it alone otherwise things will turn nasty!

FACT OF THE DAY 2: Mice are now used for bomb detection. The little troopers!

We were then told about ‘lures’. A lure is something that can attract or entice. A further definition is, it can be something to tempt something else to perform an action, possibly for a reward, think the subject of Cliff Richards ‘Devil Woman’! This can be seen in the animal world and on a daily basis. Examples are the use of lipstick for attraction, a baby crying for its’ parent’s attention and retailers using lures to sell products.

Katherine ended the lecture with a description of her research and how the greater understanding of senses is being applied in the world of conservation and animal enrichment. For example, Katherine is working with a team from Oxford to design sensory lures for non-evasive observation of the Scottish Wildcat. It is thought there are only 400 of these creatures left in the wild. So it’s obvious how crucial and valuable this research is.

FACT OF THE DAY 3: Tigers like Marmite! Who knew?!

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Afterwards, outside, we treated to a display by a falcon. The crowd loved it, the local population of crows and gulls didn’t so much so it had to be brief. But everybody certainly got a thrill seeing this lightning quick, beautiful animal swooping inches above our heads!

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Written by Rae Kenny, ILW Student Ambassador

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