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Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Submerged Sniffer

Vanderbilt University


Science World

By Corey Binns

The fleshy pink snout on a star-nosed mole does more than turn heads. Its nose enables the mole to smell on land and underwater--something no other mammal is known to do.

Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, tested these swimming moles to see if they could track the scent of an earthworm while underwater. The moles quickly blew bubbles and sucked them back into their noses at about the same rate as mammals sniff on land. The unusual smelling behavior helped the moles find the wormy snack 75 to 100 percent of the time.

"It's surprising to see them exhale a bubble and inhale the same bubble to find food," says Catania. Scientists should be on the lookout for more semiaquatic mammals that do the same, he says.

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