Moles smell in stereo, scientists say

  • Article by: Wire services
  • Updated: February 23, 2013 - 4:20 PM

Humans and many other mammals see and hear in stereo. But what about smell?

“People have wondered for a long time whether smell has this component as well,” said Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University. Now he and colleagues reported in the journal Nature Communications that common moles, which are blind, have the ability and use it to swiftly locate prey.

Catania created a chamber with food wells spaced around a semicircle and watched as moles detected the food. Moving their noses back and forth, the moles zeroed in on the food in less than five seconds.

Catania then blocked one of the moles’ nostrils. When the left nostril was blocked, they veered to the right, and when the right was blocked, they veered to left. To confirm that the moles use stereo sniffing, Catania put plastic tubes in both nostrils and then crossed them. This caused the moles to think that food to their right was actually located to their left. But it confirmed that the moles in fact use stereo sniffing.

Previous research indicates that rats can smell in stereo, and there are suggestions that sharks and ants can, too. Can humans smell in stereo?

Unlikely, he said.

moon may have had own water once

Scientists picking up signs of water on the moon’s surface typically attribute them to deposits left by comets, asteroids and other heavenly objects. But a new analysis of lunar samples brought back to Earth by Apollo astronauts in the early 1970s indicates that the moon’s interior may have been a little damp in its early days.

The findings, published online in the journal Nature Geoscience, support evidence that the moon once contained some “native” water — throwing a wrench into current beliefs about how Earth’s companion formed. Prevailing theories hold that the moon was created when a Mars-sized body crashed into Earth and broke off debris that coalesced. In the process, much of the water would have evaporated into space, leaving Earth’s new satellite arid.

“It’s thought that the moon’s formation involved the materials getting very hot, and it’s usually assumed that little water would have survived through that,” ” said Paul Warren, a University of California, Los Angeles cosmochemist. If the new study is right, “It opens up quite a mystery.”

Knowing how much water there is could be handy. He said, “Someday, when we put men on the moon in a more permanent way, we might need that water.”

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