“What big eyes you have…”

October 13, 2017


Centuries ago the famed philosopher Aristotle allotted these five senses to homo sapiens – sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste.

However, the inhabitant of the natural world dwarf us mere mortals when it comes to the ability to sense their surroundings. Evolution has helped these creatures to develop additional senses like echolocation, infrared and ultraviolet vision and electric and magnetic sense.

Animals use their senses to find a mate and procreate, locate food, care for their young, defend themselves and evade danger.

On land, the lion rule with a mighty roar and its senses are a great asset to keep a tight reign over its kingdom.


When a male lion or a lioness pull back their lips and expose their teeth, it’s not always a sign of aggression. This behavior is known as Flehmen and occurs when the animals open their lips to draw air over an olfactory organ on the roof of their mouths. It helps them determine reproductive status, find prey and locate kills by other predators. Lions also have glands between and around their faces, whiskers and between their toes that help them with scent marking and thus have a well developed sense of smell.


This is probably the lion’s best-developed sense, especially at night with the animal’s eyes up to eight times better than the human eye. The lion also has a round pupil and a white circle under his eye for allowing more light to reflect into the organ. It however has to move its head from side to side for a greater field of vision as the eyes itself don’t move that much.


For lions, to touch is to feel and convey a host of messages about the pride dynamics. They engage in a variety of ways, like licking each other and rubbing heads as a way of greeting.


They may not be the most discerning of diners, feasting on raw meat and pieces ripped from carcasses. Lions do however have a very sharp tongue that is covered in papillae, small backward-curving spines and assists in scraping meat of bones as well as aiding with grooming.


With the ability to move its ears, the lion can sense (no pun intended…) from which direction noise is coming. As roaring is a means of communication between pride members and rivals alike for up to 8 kilometers in distance, the lion’s hearing has to be able to receive these messages.

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