Source of bad smells: rotten eggs,skunk cabbage, etc.

Brian Foley btf at t10.lanl.gov
Fri Nov 22 18:46:48 EST 1996


Hugh Vartanian wrote:
> 
> Hi
> I'm writing a children's book on gross smells.  One of the premises of the
> book is to provide a scientific explanation of the sources of such everyday
> unpleasant odors ...
> Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
> 
> Thanks,
> Luann

	Some questions are: how do we define "good" and
"bad" smells?  Why do we have a sense of smell in the first place?
Why would a flower or a fruit produce odors?  Why would
a skunk or a bacteria produce odors?
	Flowers produce odors to attract bees or other
pollinating insects.  Insects have a sense of smell so
that they can locate sources of food.  The flower gives
the bee some nectar to reward it for the job of pollination.
	Some bacteria might survive better by producing 
unpleasant odors that would keep larger organisms from
eating them, along with the food they are gowing on.
	Mammals might come to recognize bacterial odors
as "bad" becuase some bacteria and their bi-products can make
us sick if we eat them.
	Skunks developed their bad odor for use as a 
defense against predators.
	Berries and fruits smeel good and taste sweet
so that animals will eat them and spread their
seeds to distant places.  If you want to start a wild
raspberry or blackberry patch, all you have to do is
string up a wire, and birds will sit on it and deposit
berry seeds for you.

-- 
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