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Mysterious Animal Senses
Whenever animals are used as protagonists in a story, it's nearly guaranteed that they'll possess senses at least on par with, and more likely far in excess of, the human norm. Also, all animals will have very nearly the same set of senses.

A wolf protagonist? Not only can he discover your life history from one whiff of your clothes, he can also tell what color hat you're wearing from a mile away, and hear the sound of snow falling through a half foot of steel. And probably be able to sense ghosts and the innate innocence of the All-Loving Hero, to boot.

This is not how it works in Real Life.

While many animals do have interesting and novel abilities, they also lack some of the senses humans consider to be mundane - tri-chromatic vision most obviously (but not exclusively). No single animal has all the nifty keen abilities you saw on that one Discovery Channel special.

See also Super Senses, Spider-Sense and Animal Eyes. Compare Sense Freak. Super-awesome animal-like senses are often employed as one of the reasons why Our Elves Are Better (Petting Zoo People as well) and the lack of those makes humans Puny Earthlings in comparison.


Examples:

Subversions and aversions only, otherwise we'd have every critter book in existence here

Aversions:

Literature

  • Averted in the Silverwing series - the bat main characters view the environment almost exclusively through echolocation, and colors besides silver are never mentioned. This was deliberately done by the author, and it is not something you notice until you know. (Also, in this case, "silver" probably refers to reflective gray.)
  • Discworld
    • Spoofed in the book Moving Pictures, where the talking Holy Wood animals are annoyed that Victor keeps referring to them as having "mysterious animal senses".
    • Gaspode the Wonder Dog is also rather put out to find that he's seeing in color. All of a sudden, the pleasantly gray meat scraps he'd previously enjoyed are all icky red/maroon stuff!
  • Animorphs usually put a lot of (relatively believable) detail into the differences in the way the protagonists' senses worked in their various animal forms.

Tabletop Games

  • Each Species in Ironclaw has one or two Natural Senses, but no more; when using those senses, they can include their Species Trait in their Observation roll. Some Species have Gifts that improve those sense even further (Keen Eyes, Keen Ears, Keen Nose), or provide exotic sensory abilities like Echolocation.

Webcomics

  • In Kevin & Kell, it's occasionally mentioned that Kell (a wolf) is color-blind, and characters are frequently shown perceiving the world primarily through scent.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • When Momo the lemur's POV is used in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the view is bubble-distorted and tinted green to show less nuanced color vision and a wider visual range. There's also the Shirshu, that uses scent alone, which is shown as different color trails on a grainy black background, and pouring a bunch of perfume next to it made it entirely disoriented.
  • The Simpsons and Rugrats also use odd visual filters when using an animal's POV on occasion.

Subversions:

Film

  • Shrek
    Donkey: Blue flower, red thorns, blue flower, red thorns...oh, this would be so much easier if I wasn't colorblind!
    • While wandering frantically through a bunch of hedges with blue flowers and red thorns, for those who haven't seen the movie.
  • A similar joke is used for a Wire Dilemma in Cats & Dogs.

Real Life

  • In a non-fictional subversion, bats were variously hypothesized to possess either phenomenal night vision or (once blindfold experiments shot that down) a sense of touch so keen that they could feel distortions in air density from nearby objects. Only when earplug tests revealed they needed to hear to navigate was the mystery of their Mysterious Animal Senses (echolocation) solved.
  • A lot of animals that folklore says are "colorblind" don't actually have monochromatic vision, though their color vision isn't exactly the same as that of humans. Dogs, for example, are rather better than humans at distinguishing between hues of blue, but have more trouble telling orange from red. However, many animals do seem to impart rather less importance to color than humans do... cats were thought to be colorblind until researchers realized they were just ignoring it completely and relying on their sense of smell instead (if it didn't smell like food, the cats couldn't care less what color it was, because cats).

Video Games

  • Sam & Max Hit the Road: The two main characters (a dog and a rabbit) purchase a paint-by-numbers game only to find out neither can see in color.

Webcomics


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