Follow the Scent

  • IT’S FAIR TO SAY I LOVE DOGS AND I SHARE THIS OPINION WITH A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THE PLANET, BUT AS WELL AS THEIR ADORABLENESS DO YOU KNOW WHAT MAKES DOGS REALLY IMPRESSIVE? THEIR INCREDIBLE SENSE OF SMELL. FIND OUT HOW RESEARCHERS ARE UTILISING THIS IN OUR FIGHT AGAINST DISEASES, EVEN CORONAVIRUS.

    While we humans rely mostly on our eyes to help us navigate the world, dogs rely not only on their sight but also their sense of smell to assess their surroundings. In fact, dogs dedicate a lot of brain power to interpreting smells, with 100 million sensory receptor sites in their nasal cavity (compared to just 6 million in humans), meaning they devote ~40 times more brain area to smell analysis than humans. Whilst we can smell a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of tea, dogs can smell a spoonful of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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    Whilst dogs do not speak with their noses, they can decipher a whole story. With a single sniff, a dog’s nose can pick up chemicals produced by objects, whether food, grass, other dogs etc. They can determine if fellow canines are female or male, what they’ve eaten, if they’re related and where they’ve been, to name but a few. Dogs can even move their nostrils independently so they can deduce which direction the scent is coming from. This can be a beneficial “homing” tool for them if they ever get lost. Again, due to the unique combination of chemicals we each produce, dogs are able to tell us apart without even seeing us! Aside from their millions of extra sensory receptors, why is their sense of smell so much better than ours? Dogs have an additional olfactory tool (i.e. organs used to smell) called the Jacobsen’s organ which is specifically adapted to interpret chemical information and is located in the nasal cavity, and opens in the roof of their mouths. Nerves from Jaconsen’s organ can detect chemicals that often have no odour at all, and are lead to the brain where the information is processed. This would be traditionally used by our canine friends to find a potential mate and for pups to find their mother’s milk source. Scientists however have started to utilise this amazing trait for disease detection.

    For the full article: https://ashortscientist.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/follow-the-scent/