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Sentient assembles a menagerie of zoological creatures - from land, air, sea and all four corners of the globe - to understand what it means to be human. Through their eyes, ears, skins, tongues and noses, the furred, finned and feathered reveal how we sense and make sense of the world, as well as the untold scientific revolution stirring in the field of human perception.
The harlequin mantis shrimp can throw a punch that can fracture aquarium walls, but, more importantly, it has the ability to see a vast range of colours. The ears of the great grey owl have such unparalleled range and sensitivity that they can hear 20 decibels lower than the human ear. The star-nosed mole barely fills a human hand, seldom ventures above ground and poses little threat unless you are an earthworm, but its miraculous nose allows it to catch those worms at astonishing speed - as little as 120 milliseconds. Here, too, we meet the four-eyed spookfish and its dark vision; the vampire bat and its remarkable powers of touch; the bloodhound and its hundreds of millions of scent receptors, as well as the bar-tailed godwit, the common octopus, giant peacocks, cheetahs and golden orb-weaving spiders. Each of these extraordinary creatures illustrates the sensory powers that lie dormant within us.
In this captivating book, Jackie Higgins explores this evolutionary heritage, and, in doing so, enables us to subconsciously engage with the world in ways we never knew possible.
"Sentient is a tour de force of popular science, leading the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the natural world, to show the fascinating parallels between animal and human senses." (Stephen Moss, naturalist and author)
"Epic account of how the senses make sense.... Higgins’ argument, although colourful, is rigorous and focused. She leads us to adopt an entirely unfamiliar way of thinking about the senses." (Simon Ings, The Times)
"Jackie Higgins’s lyrical, literate style will charm you while her book stuns your imagination with strange, other-worldly truths." (Richard Dawkins)