Researchers at the University of Florida say a lobster's sense of smell could one day help protect soldiers from landmines and other explosives.
UF researchers have discovered that a type of olfactory neuron in lobsters constantly discharges small bursts of electronic pulses that may help them find an odor's location when they search for food or try to avoid danger.
Now the researchers say that ability, which they call "lobster radar" could help them develop improved electronic "noses" to detect explosives.
"An electronic nose has to recognize an odor and locate its source. Finding the source has often been the job of the person handling the electronic nose," said Barry W. Ache, director of the Center for Smell and Taste in UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute.
The "lobster radar" can pinpoint a smell the same way a human can hear a train moving left to right. The finding by UF's researchers could also help scientists better understand the sense of smell in all animals, including humans.
"The involvement of bursting sensory neurons in olfactory processing is not unique to the lobster,” Yuriy Bobkov, of the UF Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, said in a statement. "It’s likely to be a fundamental aspect of olfaction."