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Bizarre Alien Senses

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"I have eight other senses, but I'd trade them all, even smision, to be able to taste."
Bender, Futurama

One way to make an alien creature seem bizarre to human audiences is to have it detect the world around it with a different array of biological senses than us. Often they're depicted as using sensory mechanisms found in other Earth species, such as echolocation, thermographic vision, or sensitivity to electrical impulses or vibrations. More rarely, writers will equip aliens with biological versions of radar or other technological sensors, or they'll invent senses that discern esoteric forces such as psychic energy.

Senses that are found in we humans are often absent or much-reduced in beings equipped with bizarre alien senses. On film, this trope may be depicted with Point of View shots using image-distorting or false-color effects. Most commonly seen in Science Fiction, but occasionally in Xenofiction or other Speculative Fiction genres.

A subtrope of Bizarre Alien Biology, and supertrope to Mysterious Animal Senses. Frequently correlated with Eyeless Face. Contrast Blindfolded Vision, in which someone denied their normal eyesight relies on other sensory modes, or Super Senses, when normal human senses are enhanced. Commonly found in The Morlocks as well as aliens. May permit the perception of a Fictional Color. For a different sort of alien feeling, see Inhuman Emotion. This often turns up with the Sense-Impaired Monster when it has unusual senses such as echolocation or thermoreception to make for missing mundane ones.

When the bizarreness applies to the way the alien communicates, it's Starfish Language.

Contrast Unexpectedly Human Perception.


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    Comic Books 
  • Martian Manhunter occasionally mentions having nine senses.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: it is mentioned in extras that Evronians of lower castes do have eyes but do not possess "proper" sight, instead sensing emotive energy and emotions of others or technological trinkets. Evronian Commanders and Scientists can also see normally, while those of Imperial caste have even better senses.
  • Swamp Thing: In the "vegetable sex" scene, Abigail temporarily experiences Swamp Thing's ability to sense life force, and perceives the wetlands as a shimmering field of glowing vegetation, dotted with bright life-sparks of animals.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Edward Hyde can see people's body heat, including Griffin's.
  • Superman:
    • Superboy and the Ravers: Shaar can sense the presence of life in sub-dimensions, or from sub-dimensions back out to the dimension proper.
    • Superman has all kinds of visions, not taking into account heat. X-Ray, microscopic, electromagnetic (at one point he states that he can see Wi-Fi networks as a series of overlapping clouds), soul (yeah, that's a thing now).
  • Supergirl has at least half-dozen of kinds of super-vision (telescopic, microscopic, X-Ray...) as well as super-hearing.
    • In Supergirl (Rebirth), Kara hears what is happening on Earth in real time while she is standing on the surface of the Sun. And she uses her microscopic vision on Lar-On to observe his genes and determine that his genetic makeup has been completely mangled by Red-K poisoning.
      Supergirl: I can see his genes.
    • In Way of the World, Supergirl can see the signature energy given off by the swarms of nanomachines flooding Resurrection Man's blood. Apparently, it is purple-hued.
      Supergirl: That nanotech you've got in you gives off a strange energy signature. It would look purple, if you could see it.
    • In The Plague of the Antibiotic Man, Superman and Supergirl can see the trail of particles left by a teleportation beam.
      Superman: "See it?— A faint trail of electrically-charged particles— a leftover trace of the teleportation-beam, I'd guess!"
      Supergirl: "I see it, all right... And I've just tracked it to its source!"
  • Spider-Man:
    • When the Jason Macendale version of the Hobgoblin got turned into a demon, he noted that colors were all wrong.
    • Spider-Man's Spider-Sense is sometimes portrayed as more like an actual sixth sense than a psychic impression (as in the trope of the same name). Apparently it tingles.
  • Tales of the Jedi: Shoaneb Culu is blind, but sees with the Force. In fact, her entire people, the Miraluka, have this ability. This is the reason why they lost their eyes over time, since they're redundant.
  • The Sandlings of White Sand have some sort of "sand sense", and can apparently talk to it, although whether it's low-tech civillization's way of describing echolocation or something more bizarre remains to be seen.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Courtesy of San, both of Monster X's heads have the ability to perceive electrical fields in their vision. Mothra meanwhile can sense otherwise-imperceivable "Life-Strands" and the impact other Titans' emotions across far distances have on them.
  • Advice and Trust: In chapter 7 Rei fights Zeruel. It is explored how she -an ancient alien goddess stuck inside the body of a human teenager- sees the world differently, how she senses everyone's A T Fields, their nature and their power, and during the battle she feels her Field and Zeruel's clashing, hers struggling uselessly against Zeruel's and Zeruel's menacing with eroding hers if her pressure ever lets up.
  • A Crown of Stars: The Avaloni Imperial Tribes have especial senses: Star Borns as Ching can feel when others are close and have aura-reading abilities, whereas Blood Borns can feel physical proximity.
  • Enlightenments: The god Dormin has very different senses from a mortal. The fic's entirely from their perspective, so various aspects of this are explored, such as how they see wayward bits of their soul as light (the horns of demigods created by their power glow to their vision because of this), and they see the Queen's shadows as a garbled mix of colours that hurts to look at for too long. They also don't have any real sense of day vs. night, so instead of 24-hour periods, they think in 20-hour periods.
  • Eternal Flowers: Seeing as Persocoms are considered another type of lifeform… the list includes sensing not only wifi and radio waves, but mircowaves and even magic as well.
  • Last Child of Krypton: The story goes into great detail about how Shinji -who in this setting is Superman- sees the world in the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
  • In Revenge of the Energy Vampire, Nos-4-A2 can sense energy.
  • Rise of the Minisukas: Rei is the only one who can feel the Minisukas are not tiny humans but cosmic aberrations. Also, when Matarael poses as a Shinji's schoolmate, Rei and Shiki (who is being parasitized by an alien) are the only ones who can see through his deception at a glance.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka's first hint that her senses were not normal either was when she accidentally saw through her home's walls... right when Shinji was changing clothes. Later she discovered her senses were exceptionally sharp and she had many different kinds of vision... including heat vision.
  • Triptych Continuum: Ponies possess feel, which allows them to pick up on active magic use and lingering traces for the workings of their own race, along with helping them learn how new tricks can be done. Most ponies can improve the quality of this sense through practice, although a few seem to be stuck in the basement. It's presumed that the Princesses possess all three versions. She does as well, but only one at a time.
    • In addition, pegasus vision extends into the infrared, and they can see humidity and ion charge through never-fully-explained mechanisms.
  • In ''Walk Through the Valley'' by Vathara, the at least three species of animal on the Death World Satoyama can sense and generate EMPs. Through LEGO Genetics, Hiko and Kenshin gain this ability and then some.
  • Alien Exodus: The Bith have microscopic vision, but this skill is at the cost of not being able to see distant objects clearly; Mon Calamari, meanwhile, have eyes that can deal with multiple refractive indices, what it grants them with a keen vision, almost telescopic when working in the air.
  • Daughter of Fire and Steel: As soon as General Zod's crew arrive in Earth, Kara tests the planet's atmosphere's effect on her organism. She becomes amazed when she finds out she can see and hear things she had previously been unable to.
    Kara: It was like I could see everything. I could see through walls, flesh, bones, machinery, everything. I could see heat and cold as if they were visible to the naked eye. I could hear Nam-Ek's breathing, Faora strolling back and forth on the bridge, the heartbeats of everyone board this ship, all of it as if it was happening right inside my ear drum.
  • Hellsister Trilogy:
    • Kryptonians and Daxamites like Superman, Supergirl, Dev-Em, Mon-El... are able to see and hear anything under a yellow sun. Using their super-vision in a certain way even lets them mesmerize people.
      Kara was using her super-hearing for various things. First, to check the pulse rate of the processors and guards. A bit tense, but nothing which indicated they might have discerned their identities. She increased her listening level a bit more and caught a cacophony of sound all over the planet. Her brain became a super-processing unit to filter out all but what she was really seeking for.
      She thought about just using her vision powers, but didn't want to be seen looking in too many directions. The guards were bound to be suspicious enough as it was, and it was easier to keep her visuals here in the processing room to keep up her ruse while her aurals sought out the information.
    • Dawnstar is also able to detect and follow trails of energy.
      She could usually sense detector beams directed into space from inhabited planets.
  • In Superman and Man, Christopher Reeve lampshades the ridiculous number of Superman's vision-related powers.
    He also recalled that Superman had other powers. X-ray vision, and heat vision, and half a dozen other visions. All from the comic books. All dreamed up by those idiots down at DC Comics, who really believed that such a thing was possible. Who bought into the myth so much, they tried to rationalize out every bit of it.
    Only here, in this dream, it needed no rationalization.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In After Earth, the alien monsters have the ability to "smell" fear. Which would make them an effective predator, except this is apparently their only sense; anyone able to overcome their fear becomes effectively invisiblenote . One would think that someone designing a genetically-engineered killing machine would add in a few other basic senses to overcome the obvious weaknesses.
  • The "gorilla wolf" aliens from Attack the Block have no eyes, and are implied to perceive their surroundings by scent and echolocation.
  • The subterranean creatures from The Cave echolocate too, although their "vision" is depicted with regular, albeit slightly-fuzzed and monochrome, footage that undergoes expanding waves of increased clarity when they utter their clicking cries.
  • In the film adaptation of City Of Ember, the giant star-nosed mole probes for prey with its snout-tentacles.
  • The invaders from The Darkest Hour sense electricity. This means they can't see through glass.
  • Dracula Untold: Several POV shots from Vlad's perspective appear to merge both echolocation and thermographic vision, showing a forest's trees as vague gray silhouettes that sharpen into clarity with every ultrasound-burst, while glowing-red images of warm-bodied soldiers duck and weave among them.
  • The Fly (1958): During The Reveal in which his wife pulls off his hood, Andre's P-O-V is briefly shown, and he sees dozens of simultaneous images of her screaming face through his fly-head's compound eyes.
  • The Force Awakens: Steelpeckers, scavenging birds seen in the background of some Jakku scenes, use a magnetic sense to pinpoint the scrap metals they like to consume.
  • In Jaws: The Revenge, the shark-hunters disorient the great white using a device that confuses its electroreceptive sense.
  • In the film K-PAX, mental patient/possible alien "prot" (Kevin Spacey) is confirmed early on as being able to somehow detect infrared wavelengths of light.
  • Men in Black 3: Griffin lives in 5 dimensions, which gives him a rather interesting view of time in general.
  • Nope: How Jean Jacket can tell it's being looked at without eyes is ambiguous, let alone whether it even has eyes. However, it cannot tell fake eyes apart from real eyes, at one point attempting to eat a horse statue it mistook for a real horse, it tries to eat a giant cartoon cowboy balloon, and OJ is able to get it to chase him with fake eyes taped onto the hood of his jacket.
  • The ravenous flying beasts from Pitch Black use echolocation, which is depicted on-screen as textured pixel-clouds that take on the shapes of objects.
  • Predator:
    • The title aliens have near-infrared vision. This is depicted onscreen by coloring what they see based on the temperature of objects: black = cold, white = hot, and other colors in between. The first movie shows that their helmet visor filters some of the ambient heat to better focus on warm preys.
    • In the sequels, video games, and spin-off films, even this is thrown for a loop. When the Predators have reason to believe humans are using their vision's weaknesses against them, they reveal that their helmets have technology in them that gives them ''further'' forms of vision, such as sonar, backscatter x-ray, and some kind of metal detection. Given the characterization that Predators tend to receive, it rarely feels as arbitrary as it sounds.
  • Shin Godzilla: This version of Godzilla exhibits a biological radar system which enables him to detect and shoot down airborne craft — and it remains active even when he's comatose.
  • In the Tremors franchise, Graboids pinpoint their prey using sound and other vibrations, while Shriekers and Ass-Blasters use heat vision that's enhanced by blasts of heat emanating from their mouths.
  • Distracting the creature's electroreception becomes a plot element of Two-Headed Shark Attack.
  • Wolfen was probably the first film to incorporate thermographic footage to represent this trope.
  • The New Gods in Zack Snyder's Justice League are implied to have some kind of divining ability, as Darkseid and Steppenwolf are both shown raking their fingers through a patch of dirt before striking the ground with their weapons, causing the Anti-Life Equation to emerge.

  • In Alan Dean Foster's novelization of Aliens, Bishop speculates the xenomorphs have this given their Eyeless Face and lack of any other apparent sensing organs for tracking prey.
  • In the Animorphs series Andalites are said to have the ability to keep time perfectly and are able to tell cardinal directions. Also, according to Ax, their stalk eyes can see into the infrared spectrum.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "A Boy's Best Friend": Jimmy's Robutt was designed with radio communication, radar equipment, and the ability to make himself glow in the dark. This is all so that he can better travel with and protect humans like we expect dogs to do.
    • "Green Patches": Life forms on Saybrook's Planet have tufts of green hair-like structures on their surface, which allow them to sense the interconnections that link all life forms on their world into one vast gestalt consciousness. Earth organisms - everything from bacteria to plants to the next generation of animals - develop these same green patches in place of eyes if exposed to Saybrook biota.
    • "The Secret Sense": These aliens are very sensitive to electric fields, but have comparatively weak hearing and color vision. The brain cells involved are present in humans but do not function. The story centers around a man who is temporarily given the ability to use this sense to experience the electromagnetic equivalent of a musical performance, but the process eventually kills the cells, depriving him of the secret sense permanently. The alien in the story demonstrates this because he wants the human to shut up and stop talking about Earth music.
    • "Victory Unintentional": The Jovians have a mass-sensitive organ, and their scientists want to know how the ZZ from Ganymede are able to sense distant objects without it.
  • The creators of the Descolada in Children of the Mind are implied to have some kind of chemical sense, as the only coherent communication the protagonists got from them consisted of chemical formulae.
  • Crest of the Stars: the gentically-engineered Abh have an additional sensory organ in their forehead, colloquially called a "third eye" and properly called the "froch", that gives them greatly enhanced spatial perception. Most Abh wear tiaras that contain sensors that link with this organ to allow them to "see" in all directions around themselves. Their spaceships also interface with this organ rather than using windows or cameras (though most of them do have cameras as a backup).
  • The Spiders in Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky have a larger visible spectrum of light than humans, referring to infrared frequencies as "far-red" and ultraviolet as "far-blue". Human display technologies, designed only to display what we can see, look like simple and underdeveloped technology to them, despite our otherwise advanced capabilities. Some Spider dwellings also appear dark to us, due to being lit with light outside our visible spectrum. On one occasion, Spiders are also shown to be able to "hear" vibrations in the ground through their feet.
  • Discworld:
    • In Lords and Ladies, elves are sensitive to magnetic fields, thus explaining their aversion to iron which distorts and "blinds" such senses.
    • Golems, or at least Mr. Pump, are sensitive to something called "Karmic Signature", which Pump did not see fit to explain. They can also detect one another "singing" underground, through thousands of feet of soil.
    • Angua's sense of smell when in her wolf shape verges on this trope, and she's usually forced to draw analogies to colors and sounds in her efforts to convey what it's like to non-werewolves.
    • Inverted in Moving Pictures, when Gaspode complains about what a shock it was when his Holy Wood-induced newfound intelligence caused him to have dreams in color. The experience of Bizarre Human Senses was quite appalling to the little terrier-mix.
  • In Darker Than You Think, the witch species Homo lycanthropus can sense probability, which they use to manipulate events. They can also sense the emanations of a material harmful to them, which one character speculates is radiation.
  • In the Dragaera novels, the tendrils on the necks of dragons are sensory structures that detect other creatures' psychic energies.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In "Aftermath", the "turtlenecks" use sonar to navigate in the dark.
    • Not quite a different sense, but the scene in White Night in which Harry, hiding from enemies in a large pitch-black room, is shown his surroundings by Lash using mentally-projected outlines of his environment somewhat resembles this trope. It gets particularly alien when he immediately loses 'sight' of an object he throws (because Lash can't tell where it is once he's stopped touching it).
  • Expedition: Sonar seems to be the primary sensory input for Darwin IV species.
  • In Stephen King's The Eyes of The Dragon, a chapter from the point of view of a dog explains its sense of smell by metaphor with colors (the scent of a friendly character he's tracking is described as an exciting electric blue) and sounds (comparing summertime, with many different smells, as a cacophony that makes it difficult to focus on any one scent compared to the relatively "quiet" wintertime). This latter is a misconception, incidentally; dogs, especially ones bred for tracking like this one, are far better at picking out a single scent out of many others than humans, and wouldn't lose track of a single significant scent any more than you or I would lose track of a single bright red thread woven through an otherwise white cloth.
  • In The Broken Earth Trilogy, human brain stems have sensory organs called sessapinae, which give them a limited ability to sense vibration and seismic phenomena. Humans born with the Functional Magic of orogeny have a vastly more powerful ability to "sess" things like the exact composition and stratification of the earth for miles around, text written on stone (likened to reading a page blindfolded by tasting the ink), distant conversations spoken near rock, and so on.
  • On Gor, the Priest-Kings are an alien insectoid race which "talk," "hear," and mostly "see" by scent, which they perceive via their antennae.
  • The Sphynxian Treecats of the Honor Harrington universe are telepathic and empathic, and are evidently unique in the universe in that trait.
  • Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth setting gives us the insectoid Thranx, who have a "Faz" sense granted by their antennae. Apparently, the antennae are sensitive to air currents. One novel includes scenes from the perspective of a thranx larva, who is baffled by the concepts of color vision and scent: senses that don't develop in thranx until adulthood and thus, seem like this trope to him.
  • Known Space: Kdatlyno "see" via sonar using a vibrating tympanum on their faces. Their statues make use of complex ridges, textured surfaces and resonating chambers to evoke specific aesthetic impressions in the "viewer", and can be a bit obtuse for sight-oriented species — from a human standpoint, feeling a kdatlyno statue by hand will give a better impression than just looking at it.
  • In David Wellington's The Last Astronaut, the giant larvae inside 2I are blind and navigate by sensing electromagnetic fields and waves. Among other things, this means they can hone in on radio signals. The adult of their species, 2I itself, senses its surroundings through what seems like a mass spectrometer — it perceives objects as masses of their component elements.
  • The Rigellians in the Lensman books use a bizarre sense that gives a worldview much like the best solid-modeling programs. They can even see things like the innermost components of shielded power reactors. The flip side of this is that they rely exclusively on that sense and lack both sight and hearing. In consequence, it's sheer torture for other species to spend time in their cities, because their cars have no windows, their buildings have no sources of light and they make no attempt whatsoever to avoid loud noises... a visit to Rigel therefore involves a great deal of sitting around in the dark being startled by loud bangs, screams and howls of various kinds.
  • Lilith's Brood: The Cthulhumanoid Oankali have patches of "sensory tentacles" in place of ears or noses, providing senses that are somewhat analogous to sight and hearing, plus a sense of smell acute enough to identify genetic conditions by scent. More importantly, they can also extrude microfilaments that let them detect the composition of substances — down to subatomic particles, in some cases — and to analyze and modify any living tissue they touch.
  • In Piers Anthony's Omnivore, the fungus-derived mantas use biological radar to "see" their surroundings.
  • Pact: when Blake becomes a bogeyman, he finds that he's able to sense people's fear (especially if he's the one causing it), and can use it to pinpoint their locations even when he can't actually see them.
  • In Perdido Street Station, the eyeless slake-moths can smell and taste the psychic energies of sentient creatures' dreams.
  • In The Sleeping Dragon by Johnny Nexus, elves have infravision. They also have low-light vision; infravision not being the Innate Night Vision of Dungeons & Dragons, but just meaning they see more colours than humans. To an elf, human paintings looks as bizarre as if we were to look at a painting of a strawberry bush by someone who doesn't know they have red/green colour blindness. To a human, elven paintings don't look like anything.
  • The Slan in Star Carrier: Deep Space see almost exclusively by echolocation. (They do have light-detecting organs, but they can only detect it: they can't really interpret it the way smarter Earth animals do.) This proves a disadvantage during space combat: hull breaches mean air leaks out of the ship, meaning the Slan can't see or communicate. It also means that they don't really understand the concept of "space". It took them a really long time to find out about the existence of stars, and only when they built photosensitive devices that translate visual images into understandable sounds. Despite being a space-faring race, they still perceive space as a really-really big cave with a few habitable "islands" (i.e. planets) scattered in it. They don't quite understand the technology they use, implying that someone gave it to them. When they first meet a human female face-to-face (sort of), their captain tries to use echolocation to figure out human organs. He's confused why the human sound-emitting organ (mouth) doesn't have the same flexibility as the Slan equivalents. He tries to find the sound-receiving organs and, ignoring the ears, settles on boobs (also noting they're not very flexible). When contacting Grey, the Slan captain assumes that Grey is blind because he lacks the "sound-receiving organs".
  • According to some Star Trek Expanded Universe novels, Andorian antennae aren't just for show. They allow Andorians to have a limited "electro-vision", which is how an Andorian crewmember aboard the DS9 is able to detect a shrouded Jem'Hadar.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Both Saba and Tesar Sabatyne can see in infrared, being Barabels.
    • Togruta (like Shaak Ti and Ahsoka Tano) can sense their surroundings via some kind of passive echolocation.
    • The Miraluka species are humanoids who lack conventional eyes, seeing entirely through The Force. They're mostly isolationist, but the ones who leave their homeworlds tend to end up with the Jedi in some form; either as Jedi themselves, or adjuncts in teaching or administrative positions. As a courtesy to non-Miraluka, they cover their Eyeless Faces with hoods, masks, or bands.
    • Races like Gands and Vratix can see into the ultraviolet. This means that in the X-Wing Series, when the Rogues go rogue and are free to give their X-Wings custom paintjobs, Gand pilot Ooryl Qrygg's fighter looks unpainted to his human squadmates, while their Vratix mechanic remarks that it's a work of art.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Windrunners like Kaladin have an ill-defined ability to sense wind currents, which is a passive ability separate from the more active Surges. Not only does this aid them in their Not Quite Flight, but it allows them to predict the flow of battle in ways other people cannot match. In the second book, this almost gets Kaladin killed in his first fight with Szeth. He lets his windsense guide his strikes, only to be taken completely off guard when Szeth easily counters his move. This implies that the Windrunner Honorblade that Szeth is using grants this same ability—or maybe Szeth is just that good.
    • A few in the third book, Oathbringer:
      • Lift can apparently smell when someone has visited the Nightwatcher.
      • Syl is surprised to discover that she can sense when a highstorm is coming, even when it's still days off. When Kaladin was in the warcamps, she didn't need to exercise this ability since there were always lists of when the next few storms would be.
      • Shallan and Renarin can both feel Re-Shephir somewhere deep in the tower, long before they actually find her. Due to her connection to Lightweaving and the fact that Dalinar couldn't sense her, it's possible that their power over the Surge of Illumination granted them this ability.
  • The extinct aliens in John Brunner's Total Eclipse were able to sense electric fields. A minor plot point is the protagonist reasoning that the aliens must have lived in constant terror of thunderstorms. He is therefore able to deduce that a bizarre bellows-like gizmo the archaeologists found must have been a device for predicting the weather.
  • The Traitor Son Cycle: dragons have some form of magic-based sense that works akin to echolocation - their roars resonate through the ethereal, letting them detect their prey.
  • In the Hal Clement short story "Uncommon Sense", the alien creatures on an airless world see/smell through pinhole camera eyes. The molecules that escape from objects travel in straight lines, so they can be resolved into a meaningful image, which the beings "see". Does that volatile hunk of rare metal have a pungent odor—or a brilliant color?
  • As the human explorer Maskull travels across the planet Tormance in A Voyage To Arcturs he sprouts new sensory organs that allow his to sense things such as a creature's strength of will.
  • The Mad Scientist Travnicek in Wild Cards, after his infection due to Typhoid Croyd, develops a ring of unnatural, horn-like sensory organs around his neck.
  • The Lizards of World War can see a few colors in the infrared spectrum.
  • The Endbringers in Worm perceive the world through their powers: Behemoth senses tremors, Leviathan senses water, and the Simurgh senses the past and future. Khonsu senses distortions in time, Bohu also senses tremors, and Tohu senses powers. It's implied that they have no senses beyond this, since their eyes (and pretty much everything else) are cosmetic. Also, Scion can sense everything around him through unknown means, and can see through the eyes of parahumans because they have his cells connected to them.
  • Les Xipéhuz: While it's clear that the Xipéhuz percieve their environment, the protagonist never finds out how they do it, as they have no visible sensory organs and know about humans and other Xipéhuz even if there is something between them.
  • In the Mystara setting's Dragonlord trilogy, an early hint that Thelvyn is actually a gold dragon brought up in his human form is that his eyes are extremely farsighted, far beyond what any human eyes could be. The only way he can only read a book is to prop it open at one end of a large room, then look back at it from the opposite end.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • Occasionally, a Police Procedural will illustrate a police dog's Bizarre Canine Senses using CGI light-trails that represent the trail of odor it's following.

By Series:

  • In Alien Planet (an adaptation of Wayne Barlowe's Expedition), the life forms of Darwin IV lack eyes and rely on a combination of sonar and thermographic senses to discern their environment. Justified as a consequence of Darwin IV's having been extremely foggy in the recent evolutionary past, which made eyesight a liability.
  • Discussed on The Big Bang Theory, when the guys puzzle over what sensory modes a message to be launched on a space probe ought to be discernible to.
  • Daredevil (2015): Matt Murdock sees "a world on fire", having lost the use of his eyes but gained a dozen other ways of seeing the world in shades of pressure and heat.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor has some kind of "Time Sense" relating to whether or not an event is irrevocably supposed to happen. He has also been shown to be able to slow down his own perception of time. In addition to that, he can taste and smell a host of things that humans can't, such as the blood group in a sample of blood and how old an object is.
    • "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky": The Doctor can tell that Martha has been swapped out with an evil clone because of minor details no-one else can notice — a "reduced iris contraction" and a "slight thinning of the hair follicles on the left temple". He can also smell the presumably very slight odour from the goo the clone was initially covered in.
    • Time Lords have also shown a heightened sensitivity to gravity; in "Kill the Moon" the Doctor immediately realizes that the Moon has far more gravity than it should, and in "The Magician's Apprentice" both the Doctor and Missy know that they are on a planet instead of a space station because they can tell that the gravity is natural instead of artificial.
    • A human variant is shown in "Before the Flood", when Cass, who is deaf, touches the floor and feels the vibrations of the axe which Mason's ghost is dragging towards her. The shapes of floor, walls, and the axe head are traced out in spreading bright lines across a black background.
  • Cig's entry in the "Intergalactic Congress" episode of Face/Off All-Stars had heat-sensitive facial pits rather than eyes.
  • The Skitters on Falling Skies communicate with radio waves, which both they and the children they've Harnessed can detect.
  • In The Flash, King Shark has an enhanced version of a shark's electrosense, which works even on land, although the only person he's shown being able to track this way is Barry, who tends to give off a lot of electricity when running. So Barry might look like a giant flare to King Shark, even at a distance and inside a dwelling. During their climactic battle, Barry creates an electric maelstrom in the water that confuses King Shark's senses and then zaps him with lightning bolts until he's stunned.
  • Michael from The Good Place invites Elenor into his office and apologises for the mess. Elenor doesn't see any mess, at which point Michael remembers humans can't see in nine dimensions.
  • The "future predators" on Primeval use echolocation, represented on-screen with distorted false-color imagery and concentric, pulsing rings of sonic energy.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Jiangshi, or Chinese Vampire, is known to hunt by a person's breathing. Holding your breath makes them unable to find you.

  • Leyline: Alexis can echolocate, 'seeing' the world through sonar.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A common one in Dungeons & Dragons is darkvision, the ability to see without any light. Earlier editions used vision that extended into the infrared or ultraviolet spectra instead. More exotic senses include blindsense (many forms, including echolocation), the much more precise blindsight, tremorsense (feeling vibrations in the ground), mindsight (detecting self-aware beings), lifesense...
  • Shadowrun: Certain Awakened creatures have thermographic (infrared) vision, including dwarves, trolls, dragons, vampires, centaurs, cerberus hounds and fomorians.
  • Native creatures of the Jorune game setting have no eyes, sensing their surroundings by an awareness of mystical energies.
  • Traveller Double Adventure The Chamax Plague/Horde: The Chamax have two sensory abilities humans don't have. First, they can detect radio waves and use triangulation to determine their point of origin. Second, they have a limited ability to detect life, which they use to search for food.
  • In Rocket Age the long dead Lunans are believed to have seen through echolocation. The Jovians can smell certain dangerous gas pockets, an important ability on Jupiter.

    Video Games 
  • The Protheans in the Mass Effect universe had the ability to read the memories of other living beings and even inanimate objects by perceiving "experience markers". This is revealed by the Prothean squadmate Javik in Mass Effect 3. Javik expresses surprise none of the current races could do it despite being otherwise on a similar technology level to the Protheans, suggesting it might not be a natural ability at all but some kind of communication technology.
  • The Orz from Star Control say that they *smell* their environment. The Orz don't actually smell as their primary sense, it's just the least-wrong translation possible for the concept of exactly how they are sensing their surroundings. The Arilou also work hard to keep something from *smelling* the Humans, which imply they have a similar means of detection, mechanical or not.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the team bounty hunter can give a short lecture on the Bith (the bulb-headed aliens that tend to be musicians in most bars). Apparently their aural perception covers a much wider spectrum than humans', including some radio signals. However, this makes them extra vulnerable to noise and a flashbang will kill them messily. One sidequest involves trying to hunt the source of a nearby radio signal for one, simply because it's transmitting through his apartment and the noise is driving him nuts.
    • Also from KOTOR 2, one of your companions is a Miraluka, a race that evolved a highly attuned connection to the Force in lieu of eyesight. The race was previously shown in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, where the Big Bad Jerec is a powerful Miraluka Dark Jedi.
  • The Progenitors in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri can sense and manipulate a variety of fields, including electromagnetism. They communicate through "altering," too. While humans generate patterns of sounds, progenitors alter existing background noise and it's how they alter those sounds that determines meaning. This phenomenon is called "Resonance" in the game. This is a gameplay element, as well; you cannot communicate with either Progenitor faction until you've successfully researched how to manipulate these fields.
  • Ecco the Dolphin, being a toothed cetacean, can 'look beyond his eyes with his song' i.e. use echolocation. It's depicted as summoning a map of the area. There's a level in the second game called Sea of Darkness that requires echolocation to navigate, depicted by lightening the area every time Ecco sings.
  • Discworld Noir: Gaspode teaches Lewton how to use werewolf "nasal vision".
  • Oddworld: Lacking eyes, Scrabs sense electrical impulses to find their prey, and Paramites navigate primarily through smell, rather than vision.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: All of Vector's senses are sharper than those of an ordinary human, and that's not even counting the ones that humans don't even have in the first place. Miraluka (see above) are also a playable race, defaulting to the Jedi classes, but unlockable.
  • The Pokémon Dedenne has the ability to communicate with other Electric-types by sensing their electricity. The anime expands on this and has them even able to recognize individuals by their electric signature.
  • In the world of Taming Dreams, everyone has a characteristic of their soul referred to as a sentiment, and people can perceive each others' sentiments effortlessly.
  • In Evolve the monsters are capable of sensing the distortions in reality caused by Patterson tech.
  • Later stages of infection in The Last of Us are dependent upon echolocation, as fungal growths around and over the face block off the host's vision.
  • Vanish: The monsters are implied to be blind and use echolocation to track you down.
  • Monster Hunter: World: The Xeno'jiiva has several gemstones in its head that can sense the bioenergy left behind by dying Elder Dragons.

    Web Animation 
  • Dreamscape: Jenna's Skull Snake has thermal vision. Not even the way snakes sense body heat using their facial pits like in Real Life; its just like straight-up thermal goggles.
  • RWBY: while the Grimm have eyes and ears, they seem to primarily sense through negative emotions. When Lie Ren uses his Semblance to mask his emotions, the Grimm act confused, seemingly unable to see or hear him even when he's standing right in front of them.

    Web Comics 
  • In Arthur, King of Time and Space, fairies and Olympians can see ultraviolet.
  • The transdimensional aliens of Awful Hospital have a host of senses beyond the 5 we're used to. Human perception is repeatedly derided as hilariously limited. When the protagonist is granted a peek through even a handful of these through huffing a certain gas, she's completely overwhelmed.
  • City of Blank: The Blanks, despite not having eyes or ears, are able to navigate. It's made easier by their Intangibility to most people, but it's still unclear how they're able to find unmasked humans so quickly.
  • Drive (Dave Kellett): Skitter's species, the Rhinn, can perceive gravity using their "mohawk" crest, which allows them to avoid space debris when piloting starships at FTL, hence why the Empire wants to find his homeworld. His species developed this ability to avoid some predators that are basically otherwise invisible and intangible. It's later revealed that this sensitivity to curvatures in space also allows them to sense the curvature of time; while most species experience time through a single, eternal now, the Rhinn perceive a broader "window" of several milliseconds simultaneously — their incredible reflexes are due to their perceiving events that, from the point of view of others, are still slightly in the future.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Grace's antennae give her enhanced awareness of her surroundings, letting her "feel" things without seeing them. It mostly helps with her shapeshifting.
    • Magic itself is sapient and aware. It doesn't have any senses — its only awareness of the world relates to how spellcasters use it.
  • Ennui GO!: An alien visiting Axil's workplace appreciates the ambient radiation, and is at a loss to explain how it can feel it to humans deprived of this sense. On the other hand, it is puzzled by the concept of "sight".
  • Homestuck:
    • After Terezi lost her normal eyesight, she learned how to taste and smell colors to compensate. When she contacts the human protagonists, she messes with them by claiming that all Alternians share her abilities.
    • Doc Scratch, an immortal being with a large cue ball for a head, lacks any kind of typical sensory organs, and some of his comments imply that he lacks traditional senses at all — at least, he doesn't have what humans would think of as sight. Instead, he relies on his omniscience, which allows him to possess faultless knowledge of his environment's contents, appearance and behavior without using physical senses to derive it.
  • I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space!!!: The main characters tend to have antennae. Word of God is that these are for some bizarre sixth sense which humans don't understand.
  • Melonpool: Melotians pick up Earth television signals through their antennae. Couch potatoness ensues.
  • As The Order of the Stick is set in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse based on Dungeons & Dragons (specifically edition 3.5), this topic comes up occasionally to poke fun at the comparatively limited range of the human characters' senses against those of the other races.
    Roy: What? What's wrong with human senses?
    Belkar: Nothing. I'm sure it's very relaxing to be oblivious like that. Like living at a spa.
    Vaarsuvius: To be fair, you are quite bad at seeing in starlight.
    Durkon: Or total darkness.
    Vaarsuvius: Or noticing secret doors.
    Durkon: Or yer depth unnerground.
    Vaarsuvius: Or hearing things.
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger discusses the trope here as regards to Alien Arts Are Appreciated... and here as relates to Drives Like Crazy.
    Rasheed: Hoo! Drive wit' me eyes? I can't see more den ten meters wid dese, brah. I use electromagnetic proprioreception. Much better dan eyes.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Part of the Pa'anuri dark matter entities' otherness is that, due to their non-baryonic composition, both their interactions and perception of baryonic matter are limited only to gravity, meaning that barring specialized sensors they appear capable of building the only thing they can sense in our side of the universe are gravity wells. And even then it's blurred out enough they can only clearly see celestial objects and annie plants (which create and "burn" neutronium, the densest possible form of matter), the latter of which they usually crush on sight to take out whoever's using it.

    Web Original 
  • Orion's Arm: Both the To'ul'hs and the Muuh utilize echolocation, making up for their poor vision. This is because they both come from dark worlds where vision is less effective compared to other senses.
  • Friends at the Table: in the PARTIZAN series, the Branched are deep Transhuman Aliens distinguished by Voluntary Shapeshifting, and by having a sense that regular humans neither have nor comprehend. Individual Branched take on forms that they personally feel an affinity for when perceived through that sense; known Branched include a pit full of ants crawling in circles, the smell of a certain day on a certain planet, the process of stone being eroded by water, a humanoid figure made of flailing cables, poetry, and a bad feeling.

    Western Animation 
  • Some Earthbenders on Avatar: The Last Airbender learn to use their abilities to sense vibrations in the ground. This also enables them to detect lies by picking up on stress-induced changes in other people's breath and heartbeat — though it doesn't work if someone is enough of a Consummate Liar to deceive people without a second thought.
  • As Wildmutt, Ben 10 lacks eyes, yet still experiences "images" of what's around him. This perception is probably scent-based, as the images grow sharper when he takes a breath.
    • Clockwork from Ben 10: Ultimate Alien has a temporal sense that sees into the past. He can project this effect into a whole area by winding the key on his head.
    • In Omniverse Feedback is capable of smelling radio waves through his antenna.
  • Non-alien example: When the students from The Magic School Bus are turned into bats, they experience what echolocation is like, perceiving strobe-like flashing views of their surroundings each time they emit a sonar-cry.
  • In a Futurama episode, Bender, a robot, claims to have eight senses, taste not being among them. He's been shown to experience sight, hearing, touch and smell and also names another robot sense, "smision."
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk:
    • The Snow Wraith from has thermographic vision that overlays its regular eyesight. A few shots depict how it sees warm things, as shimmering blue-and-pink auras surrounding the heat sources.
    • Toothless himself demonstrates a variant of echolocation in which he uses his plasma Breath Weapon to navigate underground tunnels.

    Real Life 
  • Some fish species can sense electricity. Such electroreception is found in lampreys, cartilaginous fish (sharks, rays, chimeras), and in several varieties of bony fish (knifefish, paddlefish, sturgeons, elephantfish, coelacanths, catfish, lungfishes, bichirs, reedfishes). It also appears in aquatic salamanders and caecilians, as well as the platypus, the echidna, at least one species of freshwater dolphin, and bees.
  • Echolocation is well-known in bats and toothed cetaceans. Shrews also use this means of sensing, as do cave swiftlets and oilbirds.
    • Subverted with flying foxes and baleen whales, which don't use sonar even though most people assume all bats or whales do.
    • Some humans have been able to develop an echolocation sense after their eyesight was permanently impaired.
  • Thermographic "vision" is found in pit vipers, many boas and pythons, and vampire bats.
  • On the other end of the scale from thermo-vision is UV vision, common, and probably ancestral to, vertebrates, with the exception being mammals, in which it is very rare.
  • Old World primates, including humans, are unique among placental mammals for having trichromatic vision (having three different colour cones in the eyes), as others have only one or two cones. It was probably a useful trait to identify colourful fruit among the forest canopy.
  • The eyes of Mantis Shrimp have 12 types of cells to detect light of different color, which is four times as many as human eyes have, giving them a range of colors from Ultraviolet to possibly Infrared. In addition, they also have 4 more types of cells that detect other aspects of light than color, like polarization. This allows them to see through the glare of light reflections and even to objects that are perfectly transparent. While still retaining their ability to see colors behind them.
  • Fish detect motion in the water with their lateral lines.
    • Crocodilians have skin-covered sensory pits on their jawlines that can likewise detect motion in water. In crocodiles specifically, they have similar pits all over their bodies, which are thought to alert them to changes in water salinity.
    • Pits on the jawlines and snouts of Spinosaurus are thought to have performed the same motion-sensing function as in crocodilians.
  • Magnetoception, the ability to detect magnetic fields, is found in a wide variety of creatures, from certain kinds of bacteria to certain kinds of mammals. Homing pigeons are particularly well known for it.
  • The whiskers of cats and other mammals are merely a tuned-up human sense (touch), but as with dogs' noses, they seem almost to be a separate sense.
  • Rats and mice have a sense of smell that's not only vastly more discerning than that of humans, but which can distinguish the direction from which each individual aroma is coming, with no need to turn or wander around to determine where it's stronger. Thus, their experience of smell is probably more like how we experience sound or vision than aromas.
  • Owls have insanely good eyesight, but it's their hearing that edges into a whole new sense. They use hearing together with sight as a primary hunting tool. Their feathers are shaped to maximize the amount of sound they hear, and their ears are offset (one higher than the other) to give them three-dimensional sound perception. Owls can locate their prey by hearing their heartbeat from up to three meters away.
  • The extinct troodontid dinosaurs also had offset ears similar to owls, which is one trait out of many which suggests that, similar to owls, many of them were specialized predators of smaller animals.
  • Internal parasites such as liver flukes often have unique thermo/chemoreceptor organs used to navigate within the bodies of their hosts, so they can settle down in the right organs or move to the lungs, bladder, rectum or nasal passages to release eggs.
  • Compared to many other animals, humans are almost entirely lacking any sense of smell. While dogs can smell about 100 times better than humans, the sense of smell of bears is over 2,000 times as good, which allows them to detect and find dead animals from dozens of miles away.
  • The desman, an aquatic relative of moles, is unique among mammals in being able to smell things underwater. It blows bubbles against the surface of objects it wants to sniff, snares the now-scented bubbles with its webbed feet, and breathes them back in through its highly-flexible short trunk.
  • Speaking of moles, the Eimar's organs found at the snouts of several mole species provide a hyper-keen sense of touch. They are especially well-developed in the star-nosed mole, in which these touch-receptors are mounted on tentacle-like mobile nasal protrusions.
  • Detailed studies of narwhal tusks have revealed them to have sensory functions, detecting water pressure, salinity, temperature and particulate concentrations.
  • Kiwi birds have vibration-sensing pits in the tips of their beaks. These help them detect worms and other wiggly prey while poking their beaks through loose soil.
  • The Other Wiki has a whole page dedicated to this, as well as mentions of other human senses not typically considered.

Alternative Title(s): Bizarre Nonhuman Senses