I was reading the question about shapeshifters' nervous systems.

And I figured, the eyes and ears being merely for appearance sake, that would imply that each cell in the shape-shifter's body is either capable of, or an equal and continuous part of their sensory input.

This would imply that Odo either has the ability to have eyes on his back (without the appearance of eyes in his back), or is made up of trillions of eyes and ears coming together to create a composite image of his surroundings.

However, I tend to remember that Odo was infrequently caught off guard in the series, and can't remember any occurrence of Odo showing superior senses.
Is this a plot hole?
Is there some in-universe explanation for the limitations to his sight/hearing/...?

1 Answer 1


This is not necessarily a plot hole...

It is emphasized several times in DS9 that

  • shapeshifting is strenuous for Changelings;
  • some Changelings are better than others at changing shape and assuming complex forms (as he cannot simulate a humanoid face properly, Odo falls on the weak end of this spectrum, while some of the Changeling infiltrators in the lead up to the Dominion-Federation War put him squarely to shame).

Forming trillions of sensory organs along his outer surface may require a dexterity and degree of control that Odo simply lacks. It may even be beyond the best of his people.

It's also made clear that Odo is incapable of detecting certain stimuli. While he possesses vision and hearing, he cannot create olfactory organs. From "If Wishes Were Horses":

ODO: I have no sense of smell.

QUARK: You don't need one to detect the scent of opportunity.

Finally, from an out-of-universe point of view, Odo was whatever the writers needed him to be: an eagle, a cloud of smoke, depending on the episode. But they were inconsistent with his abilities: he can simulate a bird down to every last detail, but not a human face nor did they equip him with advantages that one might expect of someone with his truly alien abilities.

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    Odo implied that when he took the form of a bird real birds were able to tell that he wasn't one of them. He only looked like a bird to non-birds. Out-of-universe, birds are really hard to keep still in the makeup chair. Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 15:29

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