One reason for insects being so successful - about 70% of all animal species - is their excellent ability to detect moisture. Take termites for instance. The soldiers boot out the flying reproductives only when it will rain within 24 hours. Because moisture will be needed to survive and make a new termite nest.

Humans by contrast are hopeless at detecting moisture; humans do not have the senses to be able to predict rain. Except by more indirect methods and science.

So my question is is there any way of ranking the different abilities to detect moisture? This is not a list question. Rather, it's steering for a formula or set of variables. Are there factors that make a dog better at detecting moisture than cat for instance, if that is the case?

I am surprised that nobody seems to have done this for something - water and moisture - that is so vital for life.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you are going to downvote this at least have the guts to comment and say why; it seems like a valid question to me. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2019 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ It sounds like you are talking about rain prediction, i.e. weather prediction of animals. And the title sounds like the ability to detect local water, like mosquitos when they lay eggs, which can be explained through scent. The phrases are more like BBQ convo than concise info statements and queries. A dog can smell water because water smells of algea and nitrogen and things. Air pressure can also predict rain, perhaps that's what termites sense. I'm not voting, I't difficult to answer a vague question. it's a cool topic to research though. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2019 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ google.com/… $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2019 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ If it helps anything I have a shelf full of books about termites. I was keeping jargon to a minimum so that might sound ironically like "BBQ conco". The flying reproductives of termites are called aeletes. They have four fixed wings. I have beena round a lot of scientists who study termites. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2019 at 9:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So did you mean weather prediction or water location? Don't hesitate about to write formal, and even harvard/cambridge/academic English on this forum, it's quite a strict forum for science level. It helps others to learn good English and the ops like it. I didn't have time to check the results for animal sense of weather prediction, but there are lots of examples and explanations of many animals. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2019 at 12:15

1 Answer 1


I think you simply Can't.

To design an experiment you need 2 things:

1- Something Common between Humen and Insect and can be measured.

2- Different scale to order the species.

And I Think here you just do NOT have both criteria.

  • $\begingroup$ One of the common factor one can use is "hygrosensation receptors" or their homologs. After that one can compare the technical properties of such receptors (like latency, sensitivity etc) to get rank list. Similar successful attempt have been made in the case of Vision. One can rank insects to humans for specific visual task based on their photoreceptors. [e.g. Visual Motion Processing (Clark and Demb 2017)] $\endgroup$
    – Dexter
    Jul 1, 2019 at 15:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .