Segments in this Video

Sensing: Fundamental to Life (03:01)


The sophisticated eyes of the mantis shrimp with 10,000 hexagonal lenses, complex color vision, and detection of wavelengths of light that are invisible to us, are just one example of the evolution of senses, so fundamental to life in varied ecosystems.

Tornado Alley (02:11)

The natural history of the U.S.A. helps explain the evolution of our senses. During thunderstorms in Tornado Alley, nature equalizes voltage between cloud and earth with bolts of lightning.

Paramecium - Neutralizing Electrical Imbalance (02:51)

Paramecium, single celled cilia powered organisms, respond to touch by creating an electrical wave called an action potential that reverses the direction of the cilia. This ability to control the electric charge across a membrane is used by every sense, by every animal.

Black River Catfish (04:58)

The catfish's entire body is covered in barbels that behave like one giant tongue, creating a three-dimensional map of its murky surroundings. His superior senses make the catfish the dominant predator of this ecosystem.

Mojave Desert Sand Scorpion (04:49)

Oregon State University's Prof Philip Brownell uses ultraviolet light to locate a scorpion. Scorpions sense vibration through their feet, allowing them to locate their prey. See a scorpion locate, attack and kill an insect.

Human Hearing (03:44)

Human ears are responsive to sounds over a huge range of frequencies and changes in sound intensity. In the evolution from sea to land, the tiny ear bones of mammals magnify and allow air sound waves to pass into the fluid of the inner ear.

Evolution of the Mammalian Ear (03:15)

The evolution from the gills to jaws can be seen here. The agnatha lamprey was the first sea to land vertebrate.

Vision: The Dominant Sense (04:31)

Dr. Jenny Hofmeister of UC Berkeley studies the mantis shrimp, which have trinocular vision in each eye that precisely aims its tremendous punch, as well as a complex color vision adapted to the light filtered through water.

Common Origin of Vision (02:35)

Prof. Ivan Schwab believes the molecule redoxin that enables the green algae, Volvox, to detect light may be the common origin of sight. In the human eye, redoxin absorbs light and changes color, sending a signal to the brain, allowing us and all animals to see.

The Evolution of the Eye (03:41)

According to Prof. Schwab, our common ancestor, the Cyanobacteria, developed flat photosynthetic cells that evolved into cups of cells like the eyes of the Flat Worm. Smaller apertures increased focus as in the Nautilus. The addition of the lens completes the evolution of the eye.

Fowler's Toad: Conserving Brain Power (216:01)

Prof. Jeanne Jones studies the Fowler's Toad to understand how they only respond to lengthwise motion. Every animal simplifies it's visual environment to the most relevant bits to conserve processing power.

The Common Octopus: Camera Eyes and Big Brains (03:07)

The Common Octopus can change color and texture to match their surroundings. Some imitate other animals. They have signs of great intelligence and rely on their camera eyes and big brains like primates. Could this be the evolutionary link between sensory processing and intelligence?

Development of Senses Over Time (01:19)

A brief review of the living organisms presented throughout the program brings viewers to the present, and humankind's drive to gather ever more sensory information.

Evolution of Sensory Processing and Intelligence (03:48)

The evolution of the senses and their relationship to intelligence culminates in Edwin Hubble's photo M31 of the variable star, the Andromeda Galaxy, that expanded human knowledge of the universe and extended the reach of our senses.

Credits: Expanding Universe: Wonders of Life (00:47)

Credits: Expanding Universe: Wonders of Life

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Expanding Universe: Wonders of Life

Part of the Series : Wonders of Life
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



Amidst the rich natural history of the United States, Professor Brian Cox encounters the astonishing creatures that reveal how the senses evolved. Every animal on Earth experiences the world in a different way, using a unique suite of senses to detect its physical environment. Tracing the evolution of these mechanisms is a story that takes us through life's journey—from single-celled organisms to more complex, sentient beings. Brian finds that over the course of 3.8 billion years, the senses have driven life in new directions and may, ultimately, have led to our own curiosity and intelligence.

Length: 49 minutes

Item#: BVL55733

ISBN: 978-0-81609-274-1

Copyright date: ©2013

Closed Captioned

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