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Sensitive Beasts

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The nature of vampire senses is very interesting. (Or it is to me anyway, and if you are still here then it hopefully is to you as well.) We have been given many small clues that in the Jossyverse vampires have very heightened senses. Angel has commented that he can see better in the dark and hear things the humans can’t. Well that is fine, lucky old vampires, better than us at everything. But when you actually look at the senses they have, you can see that what they have is a perfect set of predator skills.

  • They can see better in the dark (Choices), which is of course vital for a creature that hunts at night. William also required glasses but Spike doesn’t, although a few vampires (Marcus and Dalton) have been seen wearing glasses. It is possible that being turned cures short or long sight but not other problems such as astigmatism. (Fool for Love; In The Dark; Lie to Me)
  • Heightened sense of smell, as witnessed by Angel sniffing Wesley and knowing he had had sex with a bleach blonde (Dear Boy). Again a vital ability for a predator, who needs to identify and classify prey at a distance, possibly long after they have gone from sight, and then track them.
  • Sharper hearing (Over The Rainbow). Again, important to a night predator.

These senses then enable the vampire to find, select, and follow their prey without getting too close. By contrast a human is very reliant on memory and intelligence to locate, and close-up daylight vision to identify, suitable plant food. The vampire does of course also need intelligence and experience, since it is catching such intelligent prey, but their three primary senses must be of vital importance.

So what about taste? Now interestingly it has been clearly stated that vampire taste buds are poor (I Will Remember You). And this too is in line with the predator model. Once a predator has caught its meal it wants to eat and enjoy it regardless, so they don't normally have a very good sense of taste. By contrast humans are very reliant on taste, to identify and classify food as to suitability and nutritional content. Hence we have one of the best senses of taste of any animal.

And finally touch. Humans have very sensitive touch, in their fingers especially. This enables us to gather small, fiddly plant foods, and to ensure they won’t damage our soft mouths. The mouth itself is a useful tools for identifying and classifying what we put in it: your mouth will tell you not to eat the husk of a pineapple even if your eyes and taste-buds don’t. A predator has no need for such refinements. For them it is more important not to be distracted by pain to the extent that they are put off their killing stroke. So predators are fairly insensitive to touch; except in a few special locations, the whiskers on a cat for example. Perhaps the equivalent might be a vampire’s neck. And by extrapolation we would expect a vampire to have a greater tolerance of pain than a human; which sure enough, is what we have seen in the Jossyverse (Potential).

Incidentally, if their necks are more sensitive than the rest of their body then it adds brutality to the neck grip, which seems to be the normal method for one vampire to exert control over another.

One final question: Do vampires have any senses that humans don’t? Well Dru has the sight of course, but she had that before she was turned. It is also possible they are in some way attracted to hell mouths. But the strongest sixth sense that we have seen suggested is that of a sire sensing his childer. Darla has commented that she would have known Angelus was anywhere in the vicinity (Judgement). Angel said that he used to have ‘a connection’ to all those he had sired (Somnambulist). And Darla certainly knew instantly that there was something wrong with her boy, when he got his soul (Five By Five).

Whether the reverse is true is less clear. There have been several instances of sires taking their childer by surprise. Angel for example knew that there was someone in the room, but he did not know it was Darla until she came out of the shadows (Angel). However, if such a sense exists in at least one direction, it would be a valuable cornerstone both for a sire’s control over his childe, and in the more affectionate side of the sire-childe bond.

Told you vampire senses were fascinating.