Bees, birds, bats, fish, and dolphins possess senses that lie far beyond the realm of human experience. In this book Howard C. Hughes tells the story of these "exotic" senses.
What's it like to be a bat or a bee? In one sense, we can never know; in another, we can find out by studying the extraordinary perceptual systems by which these and other animals process the world. Bats' sonar lets them discover their prey, their cave-mates and their caves in the pitch-dark. Dolphins use similar sonar systems to discover obstacles, food and one another in the nearly lightless ocean: they even alter their frequencies (like cell phone users) to avoid interference. And chemical communication systems regulate sex in moths, rats, pigs and, probably, people: pigs hunt truffles so well because the valuable fungus contains a pig sex hormone. Hughes, a professor of psychology at Dartmouth, describes not only how these sixth and seventh senses work, but how scientists found out about them. An Italian in the 1790s struck out the eyes of bats (who navigated just fine afterwards); a Swiss surgeon plugged their ears (they got lost). Despite these tests, zoologists until the 1930s believed that bats used not hearing, but some special sense of touch. Most dolphin sonar research, by contrast, requires some measure of dolphin cooperation. Hughes's forays into animal sensoria require that he explain concepts from acoustics, anatomy, neurology, physiology and animal behavior; he does so cleanly and well, though his style can get condescending or gee-whizzish. ("What did [a researcher] see? Well, as already indicated, he saw... ") Nevertheless, readers with any interest in animal biology will want to track this book down--even if they have to use sonar. 124 b&w photos and illustrations. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.