Sensory Exotica

Sensory Exotica

A World beyond Human Experience

By Howard C. Hughes

An entertaining guide to the exotic sensory abilities of the Earth's nonhuman creatures.

A Bradford Book





An entertaining guide to the exotic sensory abilities of the Earth's nonhuman creatures.

Certain insects and animals such as bees, birds, bats, fish, and dolphins possess senses that lie far beyond the realm of human experience. Examples include echolocation, internal navigation systems, and systems based on bioelectricity. In this book Howard C. Hughes tells the story of these "exotic" senses. He tells not only what has been discovered but how it was discovered—including historical misinterpretations of animal perception that we now view with amusement.

The book is divided into four parts: biosonar, biological compasses, electroperception, and chemical communication. Although it is filled with fascinating descriptions of animal sensitivities—the sonar system of a bat, for example, rivals that of the most sophisticated human-made devices—the author's goal is to explain the anatomical and physiological principles that underlie them. Knowledge of these mechanisms has practical applications in areas as diverse as marine navigation, the biomedical sciences, and nontoxic pest control. It can also help us to obtain a deeper understanding of more familiar sensory systems and the brain in general. Written in an entertaining, accessible style, the book recounts a tale of wonder that continues today—for who knows what sensory marvels still await discovery or what kind of creatures will provide the insights?


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262082792 360 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262582049 360 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • If you have ever wondered what it would be like to identify an object with sound rather than sight, recognize an individual by an electrical pulse rather than by a face, or find your way home by picking up a magnetic field rather than by reading a sign, then Howard Hughes' Sensory Exotica is for you. Although we may never know exactly what it's like to be an echolocating bat or a fish that emits electric signals, Hughes provides us with a visitor's pass into their world.

    Marc Hauser

    Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of The Evolution of Communication and Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think

  • Sensory Exotica will lead the way, as we head into the 21st Century, towards unravelling the mysterious and fascinating ways in which numerous animals experience their own worlds. This exciting book is a must-read for those who want to correct common misperceptions on animal perception, and for those who want to know what it is like to be animals who live in different sensory environments.

    Marc Bekoff

    Professor of Organismic Biology, University of Colorado, Co-author (with Colin Allen) of Species of Mind: The Philosophy and Biology of Cognitive Ethology

  • In this fast-paced book, some of the wodnerous sensory systems of Mother Nature's finest beasts are uncovered and held up to light with an infectious enthusiasm and awe. Howard Hughes captures the exotic on his journey through the phyla, and the reader comes away with a sense of joy and a deep admiration for Hughes's skills at communication.

    Michael S. Gazzaniga

    Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College

  • The wondrous capabilities that Hughes discusses are only beginning to be understood... but the challenging questions could attract anyone with a sense of curiosity and skills in biology or information technology.... Sensory Exotica may inspire budding scientists to pursue this rich field of inquiry.



  • Winner of the 1999 AAP/PSP award in the category of Biological Sciences, granted by the Professional/Scholary Reference Division of the Association of American Publishers.