Animals with a Distinct Sense of Touch

The Catfish

  • The most distinctive feature of catfish—their 8 barbels (whiskers) are literally organs for touching.
  • Like a blind man’s cane, each of these barbels can touch the substrate or whatever is moving in front of the catfish.  Not only are the barbels covered with taste buds and feeling nerves, the whiskers also vibrate with water disturbance and provide a sense almost like hearing—although catfish also have multiple hearing organs.
  • Unlike most fish, they don’t have scales and their smooth skin gives them a heightened sense of touch. In addition tiny hairs that run along the catfish’s side are very sensitive to vibrations. So much so, catfish are rumored to be able to detect earthquakes days in advance (Largest Fastest Smartes).

The Star-Nosed Mole

  • The star-nosed mole has 11 pairs of pink fleshy feelers called Eimer’s organs which surround its snout. Each tentacle is 1-4mm long and has 25,000-minute touch receptors, which can move independently of each other to help it feel around its environment (DeakinSciComm).
  • This extreme sensitivity allows the star-nosed mole to consume anything edible it finds in fewer than 125 milliseconds. It can decide whether the prey is edible or not in 8 milliseconds and then quickly gobbles it up. Other mammals normally take around 230 milliseconds (DeakinSciComm).
  • Each of the. 03-.16 inch-long (1-4 mm) tentacles are covered by about 25,000 minute touch receptors, known as Eimer’s organs. The receptors come in three varieties, including one that senses the microscopic texture of objects, believed to be unique to the mole (PBS).
  • The tentacles, which are also thought able to detect the minute electrical fields produced by aquatic animals as they move through water, move with lightning speed, and can touch as many as 12 objects per second (PBS).

The Cricket

  • They maintain sensitive hairs below its abdomen that are able to pick up the faintest change in air flows produced by attacking predators such as flying wasps and running spiders (Largest Fastest Smartest)
  • Each of the hairs on a cricket’s cerci is lodged in a socket, which allows them to move in a preferred direction. Airflow causes a drag force on the hair, rotating its base and firing specific neural cells, which allows the cricket to pinpoint low-frequency sound from any given direction by using the combined neural information from all the sensory hairs on the cerci (
  • Cricket hairs are incredibly energy efficient sensors, and crickets are thought to perceive flows with energies as small as or even below thermal noise levels (the background “noise” caused by the Brownian motion of particles). By evolution, the cricket has fine-tuned the hairs in order to gain as much energy from the airflow as possible (
  • Because of their optimized performance, cricket acoustic sensory hairs are very interesting structures to bio-mimic in man-made acoustic sensors (

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