Human noses know more than 1 trillion odors

Smell played an underappreciated role in evolution

By Bruce Bower, 13:39 PM March 20, 2014

Respect the nose. Humans use it to tell apart an average of more than 1 trillion odors, a new study finds.


That estimate of smell’s reach vastly exceeds the roughly several million colors and 340,000 tones a typical person can distinguish, reports a team led by geneticist Leslie Vosshall of Rockefeller University in New York City. A decades-old claim that humans discriminate only about 10,000 odors had not been systematically tested until now, the scientists say in the March 21 Science.


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