Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division, College Credit Plus
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
OSC0032, Sensory Systems
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Education Standards (3)

Sensory Systems Resources


In more advanced animals, the senses are constantly at work, making the animal aware of stimuli—such as light, or sound, or the presence of a chemical substance in the external environment—and monitoring information about the organism’s internal environment. All bilaterally symmetric animals have a sensory system, and the development of any species’ sensory system has been driven by natural selection; thus, sensory systems differ among species according to the demands of their environments. The shark, unlike most fish predators, is electrosensitive—that is, sensitive to electrical fields produced by other animals in its environment. While it is helpful to this underwater predator, electrosensitivity is a sense not found in most land animals.  In this chapter we will be exploring the different sensory systems found in animals.  

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives (Biology II TAGs)

II.7: Compare the structure of nutrient procurement and processing systems in plants and animals.

II.8: Describe the structure and function of the nervous system, the musculoskeletal system, the respiratory system, and the mechanisms of internal transport and regulation in various organisms.

Recommended Textbook Resources

Chapter 36: Sensory SystemsBiology 2e

OpenStax: Biology 2e

Senses provide information about the body and its environment.  Sensory systems do vary across species and include the somatosensory, gustatory, olfactory, auditory, vestibular, and visual systems.  Some systems might be absent in certain species yet highly tuned in others.  Although the sensory systems associated with these senses are very different, all share a common function: to convert a stimulus (such as light, or sound, or the position of the body) into an electrical signal in the nervous system.  The nervous system can use this information for different processing functions, for maintaining homeostasis, and for interacting with the external environment. Chapter 36, Sensory Systems, will provide key insights into all of these ideas.

Student Assessment Activities

Student Assessment Activities are below; instructors can also download the Sensory Systems Student Activities Word File or Sensory Systems Student Activities Google Doc.


Project 1:

Complete the end of the chapter “Review Questions”.  Make sure to answer each question thoroughly and include page numbers from the text where the answers can be found.  Be prepared to discuss your answers in a group setting during class.


Project 2:

Complete the end of the chapter “Critical Thinking Questions” according to your group number.  You will be sharing your responses with members from the other groups during class. (This is a modified “Jigsaw” method.  To use this “Jigsaw” have everyone meet in their groups for a specified amount of time. While they are discussing their responses/ideas separate everyone into new groups so that each new group has a representative from the original group.  Have the new groups meet for a specified amount of time to share their responses/ideas. This way each person holds a piece of the overall puzzle.)

Group 1: 24-26

Group 2: 27-29

Group 3: 30-33

Group 4: 34-37


Project 3:

Create a concept map or flowchart that highlights the similarities and differences between the various sensory systems.


Project 4:

Type a short essay comparing and contrasting the use of pheromones in four different animal species.


Project 5:

Create a PowerPoint presentation that shows and describes a sensory disease/disorder (color blindness, deafness, tactile sensitivities, etc.)  Make sure to include how the disease/disorder alters the bodies processing and functionality of the nervous system. Be prepared to share your presentation in class.