Now a change from dragon questions: Let's move onto aliens based on mythological creatures!

Most land creatures on the planet of Antiquoloci have a strange sensory system in place of a nose, doing a similar function to whiskers. Multiple slots that sense changes in the air (flow speed, pressure) and seem like a 6th sense to these creatures.

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

They do not smell (at least, not very well) and breathe through a tube system in their chests, so the 6th sense is all these things are used for.

My question is: What could be the science behind this 6th sense?

  • $\begingroup$ "Multiple slots" is clear. But what does "changes in the air" mean? Changes in what? Chemical composition, a.k.a. smell? Temperature? Pressure? Flow speed? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 20 '19 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking how to smell without smelling? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 20 '19 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP mostly pressure and flow speed, apologies it wasn't clear $\endgroup$ – RadioGoblin Dec 20 '19 at 18:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the decent drawings $\endgroup$ – user69935 Dec 20 '19 at 22:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What JRams said, so +2. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Dec 20 '19 at 23:16

Those hairs can be specially sensitive to electrical fields, just like the bill of a platypus or the nose of a shark.

The name of this kind of sense is Electroreception:

Electroreception or electroception is the biological ability to perceive natural electrical stimuli.1 It has been observed almost exclusively in aquatic or amphibious animals, because water is a much better conductor than air. The known exceptions are the monotremes (echidnas and platypuses), cockroaches and bees. Electroreception is used in electrolocation (detecting objects) and for electrocommunication.

Below you can see electroreceptors (Ampullae of Lorenzini) and lateral line canals in the head of a shark. This image was taken from the Wikipedia article I linked above.

Electroreceptors (Ampullae of Lorenzini) and lateral line canals in the head of a shark.

Ever felt the hairs on your arm going stiff when close to an electrical field changing strength, such as a CRT monitor eing turned on or off? Hairs may do for extra sensitivity to electrical fields for a creature that is not underwater.


I would recommend some reading on trichobothria; these are fine hairs that you'll find covering things like spiders. They're extremely sensitive to motion and sound and generally speaking provide spiders with a very real version of something like spider sense.

There's a few articles and videos on the subject, but I'll quote a bit from this article that I brushed myself up on before giving you a plausible answer: Wired Article

Trichobothria are fine hairs found on spiders, insects and other animals with exoskeletons. The hairs are so sensitive that some can pick up air movement down to one ten-billionth of a meter, roughly the width of an atom, allowing animals to feel the presence of nearby predators and prey.

The slots on your creatures can be lined with tiny hair that help give them a better sense of the atmospheric conditions in their current area.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.