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Mole sniffs the world in stereo

Nostrils of unlovely mammal recognize slight differences in odors

9:24am, February 5, 2013

SMELLS GOOD  The common mole is blind and has a poor sense of touch, but it can smell in stereo. Each nostril receives slightly different scent cues that the animal uses to navigate toward its food, a new study finds.

The common mole may be homely but its nose is a wonder to behold.


The eastern American mole, also known as the common mole, tracks down an earthworm treat by recognizing the slightly different odor cues entering each nostril, neurobiologist Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University in Nashville reports online February 5 in Nature Communications.

The finding suggests that even though mole nostrils are separated by a fraction of a centimeter, each gets its own scent information that can guide an animal’s actions. “It’s an elegant demonstration of what many people suspected,” says Peter Brunjes, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia. Previous experiments with people and rats had reached contradictory conclusions

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