A Blue View: Shark Navigation is All in the Nose

All noses are not created equal. Sharks use their noses for a variety of purposes, including hunting, mating and even wayfinding!

Published June 28, 2016

In humans, women consistently outperform men when it comes to their sense of smell. And even the best female noses pale in comparison to the average dog's.

But to find the animal whose sense of smell is among the best in the Animal Kingdom, you're going to have to leave the land, grab your scuba gear and get in the water, for the holder of this distinction is the shark, the bloodhound of the sea.

Sharks use their sense of smell to chase prey and find a mate. They also use it to find their way.

Recent research by Andrew Nosal of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, California, tested leopard sharks’ use of scent to navigate through the ocean.

leopard-shark

During the study, leopard sharks were fitted with tracking devices and taken into unfamiliar waters. Some of the sharks’ nostrils were stuffed with cotton balls to hamper their sense of smell, while others’ noses were left open. The researchers found that the sharks that could smell freely returned to familiar territory quickly, while the sharks with plugged noses swam slowly and appeared lost.

Learn more in today’s A Blue View: 

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