13 Ways Your Senses Keep You Safe

by Deb on March 31, 2011


Ok, the photo isn’t really anything to do with these types of senses, but I like Jane Austen, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Although I can’t stand Marianne. And I’m sure the root of the words will be related, because it’s thanks to your senses you have the sense to stay safe.

There are 5 main tastes that all mean something important.

  1. Salt – Indicates sodium and lots of other important trace minerals you need to stay healthy.
  2. Sweet – Sugar which is energy. These days we see sugar as a bad thing, but that’s just because we have too much. For wild animals being able to find the best energy sources is pretty important.



  3. Sour – Acids taste sour, it’s not that natural acids are strong enough to hurt you but they usually indicate something isn’t ripe, which means it doesn’t have enough lovely sweet sugar to be worth eating.
  4. Bitter – Alkaloids are bitter and unpleasant to eat and many are poisonous. And yes, that includes caffeine!



  5. Umami – This isn’t a taste so much as a flavour enhancer, things taste better with glutamate. It comes from two main chemicals found in all sorts of foods from tomatoes to meat to seaweed and is generally thought of as savoury. They are very important minerals so it makes sense to have them taste good.
  6. Tasting the air – Did you know you actually have tastebuds in your lungs? Seriously. They are for bitter tastes, which are those poisonous ones, so it makes a lot of sense as a bit of warning.
  7. Eyes front! – Because your eyes face the front you don’t have a very wide field of view but the overlap means you have something even better, stereoscopic or 3D vision. It means you can judge how far away things are. This can be just a little bit important when you are swinging through the trees and it makes it a lot easier to throw spears.
  8. Your head is in between your ears – which means they hear things at slightly different angles. Your brain is so clever at calculus, even before you can pronounce it, that it can work out where sounds are coming from. That’s cool.


    Where most of your senses are.

  9. Stretch it out – Your stretch receptors stop you pinging yourself like a rubber band, they are the ones that tell you your bladder is full or that you’ve really bent that joint far enough. And they don’t even need to ask your brain. Lots of stretch receptors set off what are known as spinal reflexes, meaning the nerve signal goes to the spine then straight out to the muscle without having to go up then down the spinal cord. It’s how your leg jumps when you hit just below your knee.
  10. Light my fire – or don’t. Being burnt or cold is such a bad thing that you have dedicated nerve endings just looking out for it. They get a bit confused by the extremes, which is why freezing feels the same as burning, but the important thing is they are both dangerous for your skin.
  11. Colour my life – Ever wondered why we see in colour and other animals don’t? Ever tried to find a ripe fruit in a rainforest in black and white?
  12. Smell – the original early warning system, and I do mean original because it’s the earliest sense (in animals, there are bacteria that can see). It’s strongly linked to emotions to make sure you remember those warnings and where the flowers were so you can go back for the fruit.
  13. Goosebumps – not really about senses, but I think it’s cute. When you feel cold or scared, goosebumps are your body trying to fluff your fur to warm you up or make you look bigger and more intimidating. Like I said, cute.


    Your fur is bristling.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

colleen March 31, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Why do we get goosebumps when we are moved emotionally? I would think the herbivore animals need to see color too to pick out ripe fruit.

I think our body machines are fascinating!


Harriet March 31, 2011 at 11:06 pm
Alice Audrey April 1, 2011 at 2:11 am

I didn’t realize there were separate receptors for stretching.


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