Monday, August 20, 2007

Animals Can Smell CO2

There are folks out there who swear that ticks are some of the most fascinating creature on the planet in terms of their specialized adaptations and cool body gadgets, but I'm starting to have a real appreciation for mice these days.
This article in today from Nature features a group of scientists who have discovered that mice can smell Carbon Dioxide as keenly as humans smell sulpher gas. In experiments where mice could make choices on where to run, they chose those areas with lower concentrations of CO2, and when exposed to extreme levels, actually exhibited distressed and aggressive behavior as a result.
Though the article doesn't say exactly why mice detect CO2, they do say that the sensitivity is great enough to be able to detect the carbon in human exhalation. I imagine these stealthy little creatures actually seeking out the dwellings of people in search of food.
There aren't any plans in the making yet for using the CO2 mouse detection in any practical application, but this is nonetheless an important discovery.
For the original article in Nature (get it while it's still available!)