Friday, October 12, 2007

Bubbles, Bubbles, Everywhere!

Smelling underwater? That's right! Lobsters can do it with their antennae, and now the star-nosed mole can too! Kenneth Catania led this study and stated,

"If you go through the literature on the historical ideas of olfaction, there's a lot of statements to the effect that 'Obviously, it's impossible for a mammal to smell underwater'." ... Whales, for example, are missing some of the olfactory features that land mammals have. It is assumed that they lost these capabilities when they made the transition to a life aquatic. Semi-aquatic mammals were thought to use their olfactory system only on dry land.

The star-nosed mole blows bubbles out of both of its nostrils underwater, then quickly inhales them. By doing this they are able to follow the scent path of their prey. Ken Catania is the man behind the discovery. He filled a clear glass aquarium and threw a worm in, then put the mole in. The mole followed closely behind blowing and inhaling bubbles the whole way. To further test this, Catania made a path on the bottom of the tank by using the scent of the worms. He then put a star-nosed mole in the tank and it blew and inhaled bubbles quickly following the scent path. He repeated this experiment with several other moles and all followed the path 75-100% of the time. He then put a screen on top of the scent path to create an obstacle between the moles and the scent path. This time, the moles were only able to follow the correct path 50% of the time. This displayed Catania's hypothesis that the star-nosed moles use the bubbles to follow the path of their prey. Catania wonders if other semi-aquatic animals are also capable of smelling underwater.

Posted by: Jennifer McGrath (3)

The Mammal that can Smell Underwater


Post a Comment

<< Home