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Rats Olfactory or Sensory System Which Enables Them to Resist Control by Theresa Flores

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Rats Olfactory or Sensory System Which Enables Them to Resist Control by
Article Posted: 06/04/2012
Article Views: 80
Articles Written: 1738
Word Count: 753
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Rats Olfactory or Sensory System Which Enables Them to Resist Control

Health,Home Improvement,Environment
The sensory systems of the rat are different from our own. The way a rat perceives the world is therefore going to be radically different from how we perceive the same scene. The animal's perception of its surrounding world is called its ümvelt. What is the rat's ümvelt like?

In the realm of vision, a human's vision is much better than a rat's. Humans see three colors (blue, green and red) at high saturation levels, while rats probably perceive just a hint of ultraviolets, blues and greens. Our vision is quite sharp; we can see long distances and have good depth perception. A rat's vision, however, is quite blurry especially more than a few feet away, and its depth perception is poor.

In every other domain, however, the rat's senses are far more sensitive than our own!

A rat perceives its immediate environment with its whiskers, through its sense of touch. The rat whisks its whiskers back and forth dozens of times per second, brushing them against the floor, objects, walls, other rats. The rat gains a highly detailed picture from this tactile exploration: the rat's whiskers are more sensitive than our own fingertips.

The rat lives in a rich, complex world of smell. We can hardly imagine what such a world is like, our sense of smell is so impoverished. But every surface, every object, every whiff of air, contains different smells and information for a rat.

A rat's hearing is more sensitive than our own, it picks up softer sounds than we can and detects much higher frequencies, into the range of ultrasound.

Lastly, not only is the rat's sensory perception different from our own, but the features of the environment that the rat notices and considers important are going to be very different from the features we notice and consider important. The way the rat interacts with the environment will be different too. When we look into a room, we see chairs to sit on, desks and tables to write and type and eat on, beds to lie on, monitors to watch and keyboards to touch. To a rat, a room offers hiding places under filing cabinets and bed frames; attractive runs along floor edges; climbing spots up bookcases, chair legs, and beds; books to chew; fabric to shred for bedding; small items of food to eat; and vast new places to explore on top of desks and tables.


Contrary to the popular view of rats as totally colorblind, rats can distinguish some colors. While humans have three kinds of color sensitive cells (blue, green, and red), rats have just two types -- a blue and a green -- somewhat like humans with red-insensitive colorblindness. That isn't all, though. The rat's "blue" cones are shifted toward the ultraviolet, a part of the spectrum we humans can't see. So rat vision is dichromatic but includes shades we cannot see in the ultraviolet range.

So rats can distinguish ultraviolets, blues, and greens, but they can't see reds. Rats also have a "neutral" point in the blue-green area of the color spectrum which might look white to them, and they cannot distinguish some blue-greens from certain shades of gray.


A rat perceives its immediate surroundings through its whiskers: long, sensitive hairs growing from the rat's cheeks, eyebrows, and chin, more sensitive than our fingertips. They rapidly whisk back and forth, brushing everything close to the rat, detecting every tiny detail and irregularity. The rat lives in a world of textures. He can navigate largely by touch.

For an idea of what this might be like, get down on the floor, close your eyes and lightly run your fingertips along the floor. Feel the texture of the floor. If you have carpet, feel its fibrous, springy texture. Your fingertips may find higher tufts of carpet, specks of debris, a small stiff spot from a tiny spill. You may find indentations in the carpet where heavy objects were placed. You may find that areas where you walk are flatter than the edges of the room. If you have hardwood floors, feel swirls of the wood, the slight ridges where the boards join, a constellation of tiny specks of debris. Along the edges of the room you'll find the wall, a sheer, smooth cliff face. Feel the bottom of the wall, the dings and bumps and chips, the faint strokes of paintbrush, the tiny lifted edges of wallpaper.

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