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Scent Sense of a Bird

Contrary to what has long been thought, birds may have a sense of smell, Science reports.

It notes that a study conducted about 200 years ago suggested that birds relied on visual cues rather than smell. But as Science reports studies over time have chipped away at the notion that bird lack a sense of smell, including two recently published ones.

In Integrative and Comparative Biology last month, for instance, researchers from East Carolina University reported that five avian genomes they examined — from hummingbird, emu, chicken, zebra finch, and a tropical bird called a manakin — harbor a range of olfactory receptor genes. Michigan State University's Danielle Whittaker, who was not part of the study, tells Science the emu finding is exciting as it sits close to the base of the avian family tree.

Meanwhile, researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany reported in Scientific Reports that wild European white storks appear to be attracted to the smell of freshly mown grass. Science adds that other studies have likewise suggested that birds might be attracted to the scents given off by injured plants and that smells might have a role in avian social life.

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