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Nature. 2006 Dec 21;444(7122):1024-5.

Olfaction: underwater 'sniffing' by semi-aquatic mammals.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, VU Station B, Box 35-1634, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA.


Terrestrial species that forage underwater face challenges because their body parts and senses are adapted for land--for example, it is widely held that mammals cannot use olfaction underwater because it is impossible for them to inspire air (sniff) to convey odorants to the olfactory epithelium. Here I describe a mechanism for underwater sniffing used by the semi-aquatic star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) and water shrew (Sorex palustris). While underwater, both species exhale air bubbles onto objects or scent trails and then re-inspire the bubbles to carry the smell back through the nose. This newly described behaviour provides a mechanism for mammalian olfaction underwater.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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