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Biology   >   Smell

What Is Smelling For?

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In this lecture, Professor Matthew Cobb (University of Manchester) teaches us about our oldest sense: the sense of smell. Smell (or olfaction) has allowed animals to detect food and other mating individuals, sense danger as well as a wide variety of other functions. We begin by: (i) looking at the different types of noses in nature and understand their different functions better; before (ii) demonstrating the power of the nose in taste as well as their ability to distinguish extremely similar molecules; and then (iii) look at how maggots smell to understand better how humans smell; which then follows onto (iv) the curious chemical androstenone and its divisive response to it in humans; before finally (v) using the knowledge gained from previous mini-lecture to predict how our ancestors might have responded to different types of smell.

What Is Smelling For?

In the first mini-lecture, we are introduced to the oldest of our senses: smell. It may seem one of the more niche and unnecessary of the senses, but in this lecture we start to learn the wide range of functions it has for the body. Some version of a ‘smelling’ organ is seen across the animal kingdom, in unexpected and diverse organisms, and in this lecture we take a look at some examples of this. We learn how smell has various different functions, including being able to direct individuals to food, to other individuals for mating, and to avert us from danger. Finally, we appreciate how the nose allows us to taste.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cobb, M. (2022, August 30). Smell - What Is Smelling For? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cobb, M. "Smell – What Is Smelling For?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 30 Aug 2022,


Prof. Matthew Cobb

Prof. Matthew Cobb

Manchester University