Hairy frogs with Wolverine claws, naked mole rats that don't have to worry about cancer -- must be nice, you might think. Animals get all the cool breaks when it comes to super abilities. But hold up. We humans -- while maybe not Vertebrates of the Year -- deserve some recognition for our own superpowers. Some seemingly innocent friends, neighbors and colleagues might actually be superheroes in our midst.
Consider that water districts employ some people with extremely heightened senses of smell or taste to sample water for quality. Then there are those folks with such abnormally sensitive hearing, they might actually suffer from it: Hyperacusis might be terrific when you want to hear a spider skitter across the floor, but it sure isn't great when sounds are so amplified that normal levels of noise seem intolerable [source: Weiss]. And let's not forget our friends with synesthesia, a condition where people experience one sense in a couple different ways: for instance, you might feel a certain sound or musical note is blue, or associate letters or numbers with colors.
It gets better, though, for us mere mortals: Scientists now believe that our senses don't have to stay fixed. How about "tasting" images, for example? BrainPort is an investigational device that uses a camera to record a visual image. The visually impaired user puts a sensor in his or her mouth, where microelectrodes tickle the tongue in a pattern, translated from the digital electrical images of the camera. The user essentially learns to "see" and "read" objects in a room (as well as their movement, shape and size) like a Braille display on their tongue [source: Wicab].
Author's Note: 10 Superhero Powers of the Animal Kingdom
As a non-superpowered human, I find the idea of "tasting" images very exciting. More thrilling, however, would be the invention of claw-like bones that could pierce through my toes or fingers whenever I needed to impress someone at a cocktail party or frighten my own villains.
- Agnarsson, Ingi et al. "Bioprospecting finds the toughest biological material." PLOS One. Sept. 16, 2010. (March 27, 2014) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0011234
- Bhatia, Aatish. "The fluid dynamics of spitting." Wired. Nov. 29, 2013. (March 27, 2014) http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/11/archerfish-physics/
- Brahic, Catherine. '"Horror frog' breaks own bones to produce claws." New Scientist. May 28, 2008. (March 27, 2014) http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13991-horror-frog-breaks-own-bones-to-produce-claws.html#.UzSVxfSwKsF
- Christensen, Bill. "Device lets the tongue see." LiveScience. Aug. 26, 2009. (March 27, 2014) http://www.livescience.com/10576-device-lets-tongue.html
- Clegg, JS. "Cryptobiosis." Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part B, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. April 2001. (March 27, 2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11290443
- Courage, Katherine Harmon. "Mimic octopus makes home on Great Barrier Reef." Scientific American. March 21, 2013. (March 27, 2014) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/octopus-chronicles/2013/03/21/mimic-octopus-makes-home-on-great-barrier-reef/
- Courage, Katherine Harmon. "World's strongest animal effectively benches 1,000 times its body weight." Scientific American. March 24, 2010. (April 2, 2014) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2010/03/24/worlds-strongest-animal-effectively-benches-1000-times-its-body-weight/
- Dill, Lawrence M. "Refraction and the spitting behavior of the archerfish." Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 1977. (March 27, 2014) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00361900
- Ghose, Tia. "Smelling Storms?" LiveScience. Oct. 10, 2013. (March 27, 2014) http://www.livescience.com/40323-humans-may-develop-super-senses.html
- Goldstein, Bob and Blaxter, Mark. "Tardigrades." Current Biology. 2002. (March 27, 2014) http://tardigrades.bio.unc.edu/tardigrades/
- Inman, Matthew. "Why the mantis shrimp is my new favorite animal." TheOatmeal.com. 2013. (March 27, 2014) http://theoatmeal.com/comics/mantis_shrimp
- Knell, Robert and Simmons, Leigh W. "Mating tactics determine patterns of condition dependence in a dimorphic horned beetle." Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences. March 24, 2010. (April 2, 2014) http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/277/1692/2347.full
- Krulwich, Robert. "Animal loses head but remembers everything." NPR. Sept. 31, 2013. (March 27, 2014) http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/12/31/258399090/animal-loses-head-but-remembers-everything
- Marshall, Justin and Oberwinkler, Johannes. "Ultraviolet vision: The colourful world of the mantis shrimp." Nature. Oct. 28, 2009. (March 27, 2014) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v401/n6756/abs/401873a0.html
- Norman, M.D. et al. "Dynamic mimicry in an Indo-Malayan octopus." Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences. Sept. 7, 2001. (March 27, 2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1088805/
- NOVA. "Frozen Frogs." PBS. April 1, 2005. (March 27, 2014) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/frozen-frogs.html
- Poppick, Laura and LiveScience. "Naked mole rat named 'Vertebrate of the Year.'" Scientific American. Dec. 31, 2013. (March 27, 2014) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/naked-mole-rat-named-vertebrate/
- Roach, John. "Antifreeze-like blood lets frogs freeze and thaw with winter's whims." National Geographic. Feb. 20, 2007. (March 27, 2014) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070220-frog-antifreeze.html
- Roach, John. "Newfound octopus impersonates fish, snakes." National Geographic. Sept. 21, 2001. (March 27, 2014) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/09/0920_octopusmimic.html
- Shomrat, Tal and Levin, Michael. "An automated training paradigm reveals long-term memory in planaria and its persistence through head regeneration." Experimental Biology. June 20, 2013. (March 27, 2014) http://jeb.biologists.org/content/early/2013/06/27/jeb.087809.abstract
- Simon, Matt. "Absurd Creature of the Week." Wired. March 21, 2014. (March 27, 2014) http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/03/absurd-creature-week-water-bear/
- Thoen, Hanne H. et al. "A different form of color vision in mantis shrimp." Science. Jan. 24, 2014. (March 27, 2014) http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6169/411
- Vailati, Alberto et al. "How archer fish achieve a powerful impact." PLOS One. Oct. 24, 2012. (March 27, 2014) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0047867
- Weiss, Daniel. "Supersenses." Reader's Digest. Sept. 8, 2010. (March 27, 2014) http://www.readersdigest.com.au/supersenses
- Wicab, Inc. "BrainPort V100." Brainport Technologies. (March 27, 2014) http://www.wicab.com/en_us/
Snakes are known to hide out in unexpected places. How can snakes come up toilet pipe? Learn more about snakes in toilet pipes at HowStuffWorks.