It has been found that certain species of sharks use their noses to find their sense of direction in the deep blue ocean.
The olfactory sense may lead to navigation among leopard sharks. These sharks are sensitive to the smallest amount of chemical changes in the waters they lurk in. A study was published on the subject in a journal recently.
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The way sharks navigate from point A to point B in the vast oceans was a mystery up until now. The navigational skills of leopard sharks were tested and a lot was found about these marine predators.
About two dozen leopard sharks were caught and observed in a close up manner by Andrew Nosal from UC San Diego and colleagues. Half of them had their sense of smell destroyed and they were transported to a distant place to see how well they found their way about the usual marine routes.
The control group of sharks that didn’t have their sense of smell impaired were as close as 62.6% to the normal navigational average. But those whose sense of smell had been destroyed ended up at a measly 37.2% range and they followed a confused route too.
Thus it is a sure thing that olfaction plays a vital role in some species of sharks. Yet this is not the whole story since there were other means by which the senseless sharks made it to their targets.
Sharks seem to find their way about the ocean by complex internal systems. And the sense of smell is not just for prey detection but for navigational purposes as well. Sharks also have a very strong sense of smell.
They can pick up the scent of blood in the ocean in the weakest of concentrations. The nostrils of these carnivorous monsters of the depths are lined with cells that detect the slightest hint of odor.
The brains of these streamlined creatures too have olfactory bulbs which register any smell within close range. Of course, the #1 reason behind such a sharp sense of smell is the hunt for food.
Sharks can detect prey within one part per 10 billion. That’s almost like a single drop of the meaty essence in a king size swimming pool. And once they catch a whiff of the prey, they seldom give up in their quest to catch hold of it and bite off as many chunks of raw flesh as they could.
Dr. Nosal said, "Although chemical cues apparently guide sharks through the ocean, other sensory cues likely also play a role. Future work must determine which environmental cues are most important for navigation and how they are detected and integrated."
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The findings of this study were published on January 6, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.