In the natural world, survival depends on two requirements: getting enough food and avoiding predators. Many animals have honed their abilities in unique ways so they can survive and thrive. Have you ever wondered how humans’ ability to hear compares to other species? Let’s take a look at five animals who hear much better than we do.
Bats might seem a little creepy to some of us, but that is also what makes them so fascinating. They use a biological sonar system called echolocation to snag their prey and avoid objects. Bats chirp and click as they fly, relying on the resulting sound waves to help guide their way. Even a tiny insect 15 to 20 feet away from a bat isn’t safe and will most likely become part of the bat’s next meal.
Bats are not the only animals that use echolocation to their advantage. Instead of the darkness of isolated cave environments, dolphins need to find a way to navigate and catch their prey in waters that can often be murky and impenetrable to the eye. That’s where echolocation comes in. By emitting a series of chirps or clicks, they are able to use the echo that is made when those sound waves bounce off objects to identify food sources and steer clear of obstacles. Believe it or not, a dolphin can detect an object the size of a large coin from over 70 meters away.
You’ve probably heard the expression “elephant ears.” It describes someone with an extraordinary ability to hear sounds that would be inaudible to virtually everyone else. Well, the phrase is extremely accurate! Elephants can hear at frequencies 20 times lower than humans. It isn’t just their ears that perceive sound; these majestic beasts also have receptors in their trunks and feet that are excellent at picking up low-frequency vibrations. That explains why elephants are usually the first animals to detect an upcoming thunderstorm and move toward the new source of water.
Pigeons might be annoying to many city dwellers, but they can be admired for one particularly amazing talent: they’re arguably the best navigators in the animal world. In particular, they are adept at picking up low-frequency sounds by registering how they reflect horizontally off of hillsides. They can also hear sounds that come from nature, including faraway thunderstorms, the movements of oceans and even seismic shifts. This preternatural hearing, combined with their own special built-in compass that works by accessing the earth’s magnetic field, make pigeons extremely oriented travelers.
If your most feared predator is a bat with the ability to snare you from 20 feet away, it’s vital that you possess a world-class defense mechanism at the ready. That is exactly what several species of moths have. They use their sensitive antennae to hear the ultrasonic chirps of bats, then pull out all the stops to save their own lives through evasion and acrobatics. In addition, they can unleash their secret weapon: their ability to emit as many as 450 ultrasonic chirps per second of their own that, in effect, jam the bat’s sonar system and confuse them. Thanks to this weapon, moths are often able to escape.