New insight into how sharks sniff out prey may help explain the evolution of widely spaced nostrils, such as those of hammerheads. According to a linkurl:study; published in the latest issue of Current Biology, sharks navigate through odor trails by sensing time delays in the arrival of odor signals from one nostril to another. Presumably, sharks with more widely spaced nostrils can sense more subtle changes in the direction of the odors.
Hammerhead shark
"It's one step toward solving the puzzle" of how sharks track their prey through the tumultuous ocean environment, said linkurl:Jayne Gardiner,; a biology PhD candidate at the University of South Florida and co-author of the study. Odors diffuse through water chaotically -- twisting and swirling much like smoke from a chimney. They form eddies and patches of concentrated scent followed by odorless pockets. The survival of top marine predators hinges upon being able to...
J.M. Gardiner and J. Atema, "The Function of Bilateral Odor Arrival Time Differences in Olfactory Orientation of Sharks," Current Biology, 20:1-5, 2010. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2010.04.053

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?