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Medicine LibreTexts

15.02: The Sense Organs

Sense organs allow animals to sense changes in the environment around them and in their bodies so that they can respond appropriately. They enable animals to avoid hostile environments, sense the presence of predators and find food.

Animals can sense a wide range of stimuli that includes, touch, pressure, pain, temperature, chemicals, light, sound, movement and position of the body. Some animals can sense electric and magnetic fields. All sense organs respond to stimuli by producing nerve impulses that travel to the brain via a sensory nerve. The impulses are then processed and interpreted in the brain as pain, sight, sound, taste etc.

The senses are often divided into two groups:

1. The general senses of touch, pressure, pain and temperature that are distributed fairly evenly through the skin. Some are found in muscles and within joints.
2. The special senses which include the senses of smell, taste, sight, hearing and balance. The special sense organs may be quite complex in structure.

Contributors

Ruth Lawson (Otago Polytechnic; Dunedin, New Zealand)