Certain animals, such as pit-bearing snakes, are able to form a thermal image of heat-generating prey in complete darkness, analogous to infrared night goggles. What is the biophysical mechanism that permits such an extraordinary ability? In this work, we seek to provide an answer to this enduring mystery. We show that biological cells universally behave as pyroelectric materials and thus can convert heat into electrical signals. The “apparently” pyroelectric cells, coupled with the pit organ apparatus of snakes and other physiological features, endow these animals with the ability to detect heat radiation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- MAP3: Understanding
- infrared vision
- soft matter