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Dogs have a famously great sense of smell, but what makes their noses so much more powerful than ours? They're packing some sophisticated equipment inside that squishy schnozz.
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--- How much more powerful is a dog’s sense of smell compared to a human?
According to one estimate, dogs are 10,000-100,000 times more sensitive to smell than humans. They have about 15 times more olfactory neurons that send signals about odors to the brain. The neurons in a dog’s nose are spread out over a much larger and more convoluted area allowing them more easily decipher specific chemicals in the air.
--- Why are dog noses wet?
Dog noses secrete mucus which traps odors in the air and on the ground. When a dog licks its nose, the tongue brings those odors into the mouth allowing it to sample those smells. Dogs mostly cool themselves by panting but the mucus on their noses and sweat from their paws cool through evaporation.
--- Why do dog nostrils have slits on the side?
Dogs sniff about five times per second. The slits on the sides allows exhaled air to vent towards the sides and back. That air moving towards the back of the dog creates a low air pressure region in front of it. Air from in front of the dog rushes in to fill that low pressure region. That allows the nose to actively bring odors in from in front and keeps the exhaled air from contaminating new samples.
---+ Read the entire article on KQED Science:
---+ For more information:
The Odor Navigation Project funded NSF Brain Initiative
Jacobs Lab of Cognitive Biology at UC Berkeley
Ecological Fluid Dynamics Lab at University of Colorado Boulder
The fluid dynamics of canine olfaction: unique nasal airflow patterns as an explanation of macrosmia (Brent A. Craven, Eric G. Paterson, and Gary S. Settles)
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