Health – Animal Sense

Among one of the marvels of God’s creation that science has recently discovered is the ability of different animals to sense illness in humans. I have heard or read about dogs detecting undiagnosed illnesses such as cancer or warning their owners of an impending high blood pressure or epileptic attack. Some dogs are even able to detect the presence of human remains when they are buried, are able to trace their owners and make long journeys to be re-united with them. Other animals are able to sense impending storms and even earthquakes.

Even though animals were not given the intelligence that human beings were given to reason right from wrong, they were given remarkable instincts to know what their body needs when it becomes sick. The following article provides some interesting insights.

“Animals wounded in the wild or stricken by disease possess a remarkable ability to treat their ailments, according to new research that has important implications for humans.

“Examples of this new work include observations of capuchin monkeys that rub their fur with millipedes containing insect-killing chemicals called benzoquinones; chimpanzees who eat the pith of the plant Vernonia amygdalina to kill off intestinal worms; and domestic cats which eat houseplants or chew woolly jumpers to make themselves sick and so rid their bodies of poisons.

“Even more surprisingly, scientists have found that some creatures are adept at helping people to overcome diseases. ‘Dogs are particularly good at this,’ said Professor Keith Kendrick, of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. ‘They have a stunning sense of smell and can detect when chemical changes occur in their owners. Dogs can tell long before the event when a person is going to have an epileptic fit. Obviously that is a talent with very important implications.’

“Another favourite animal cure that has recently been uncovered by scientists is eating clay to absorb toxins and pathogens – one favoured by mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. ‘The stuff is excellent if you have had a stomach bug or something similar,’ said Dr. Cindy Engel, whose book, Wild Health, is published by Phoenix.

“The effectiveness of animal self-medication is also revealed in studies by William Karesh of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. He and his colleagues have studied a range of wild animals and found that most were in remarkably good condition. Blood tests carried out by Karesh revealed that extremely unpleasant viruses and bacteria, infections that usually kill domestic animals but which had been dealt with by their wild counterparts, had infected most of these creatures.

“This discovery may explain why many wild animals become sick and die in captivity – because insufficient attention is paid to their living conditions.

“Another example of animal’s self-medicating prowess is provided by elephants which make pilgrimages to a cave complex at Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano in western Kenya. They dig out the soft rock in the cave walls, grind and then swallow it. And the reason? Sodium is a vital ingredient in stimulating bodily defenses against toxins that major herbivores will encounter in many of the plants they eat.”

Here are a few more interesting insights from an article called The Wild Side of Animal Senses:

“Radar, compasses, and infrared detectors are all man-made contraptions that enable humans to stretch beyond our natural senses. They allow us to detect things in our environment that we otherwise could not sense. But these gadgets are far from original. An examination of the sensory world of animals reveals that nature invented them long before we did.

“About Animal Senses – Our senses tell us what we need to know about our environment. They help to keep us out of danger and enable us to find food and shelter. As humans, our senses include sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. But other animals need different information about the world to survive than we do. As a result, they can have senses that are very different from our own: ecolocation, infrared vision, electric sense, and magnetic sense.

“Ecolocation – Toothed whales (a group that includes dolphins), bats, and some shrews use ecolocation to navigate their surroundings. Each of these animals emits high-frequency sound pulses and, in turn, detects the echoes produced by those sounds. Special ear and brain adaptations enable them to build a three-dimensional picture of their surroundings, much like radar. Bats, for example, have enlarged ear flaps that gather and direct sound towards thin, supersensitive eardrums.

“Infrared Vision – Rattlesnakes and other pit vipers use their eyes to see during the day. But at night they use infrared sensory organs to detect and hunt warm-blooded prey. These infrared ‘eyes’ are cuplike structures that form crude images as infrared radiation hits a heat sensitive retina.

“Electric Sense – Electric fields are used in numerous ways by animals. Electric eels and some rays have modified muscle cells that produce an electric charge strong enough to shock and sometimes kill their prey. Other fish use weaker electric fields to navigate murky waters or to monitor their surroundings. For instance, bony fish and some frogs have a lateral line, a row of sensory pores in the skin that enables them to detect electrical current in water.

“Magnetic Sense – Together, the flow of molten material in the earth’s core and the flow of ions in the atmosphere generate a magnetic field that surrounds the earth. Amazingly, a number of animals are able to sense this magnetic field. Just as a compass helps us navigate by detecting magnetic north, animals who possess magnetic sense are able to identify direction and navigate long distances. Behavioral studies have revealed that many animals including honeybees, sharks, sea turtles, rays, homing pigeons, migratory birds, tuna, and salmon all have magnetic sense.

“The details of how these animals actually feel the earth’s magnetic field are not yet known. Researchers have found, though, that each of these animals has deposits of magnetite in their nervous systems. Magnetites, small magnet-like crystals, align themselves with magnetic fields and might act like microscopic compass needles. These crystals may be the key to revealing how animals sense magnetic fields.”

It is a blessing to be part of God’s most wonderful creation and to continue to learn awesome insights of life on this earth.