By Peter Watson
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Extra resources for Animal Traction
Unlike the red stop sign or my command “come,” odors are almost always intermittent. The red from the stop sign is constant and as long as I produce a sound, the voice command is there. Imagine walking through an English Garden in full bloom. During your pleasant stroll among the vibrant colors, you would receive periodic whiffs of the various flowers even though the flowers are constantly emitting their calls to bees. If we could visualize the movement of odors through our imaginary garden, we would see a mixture of puffs shaped like little mini-clouds with fine tendrils of odor between those puffs.
Drs. Bruce Bryant and Jelle Atema became interested in whether catfish can recognize each other just using their sense of smell. Catfish are fairly aggressive fish and will often establish a dominant and subordinate relationship if placed in a tank with another catfish. Drs. Bryant and Atema placed two catfish in a tank and watched their behavior. At first, the two fish were quite aggressive toward each other, but soon a relationship developed where one fish was clearly dominant. This fish would swim over to the subordinate animal and would periodically bully that animal.
In a similar fashion, sound has inherent properties that move that signal through the environment. 24 2 A World of Odors Fig. 1 Odor plume This situation is very different for chemicals. We can perform a little thought experiment to demonstrate this difference. Let us say, I take a handful of those skunk’s thiols, place them on a table, and remove any air movement from a room. Next I invite you into the room and ask if you can notice anything. You would not be able to smell the skunk odor at all even though those chemicals are present within the room.
Animal Traction by Peter Watson