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5 Animals With Spectacular Sniffers

Author: Kristy

You’ve probably heard about domestic dogs that are trained to sniff out drugs, explosives, and bad guys.

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On August 1, 2013, Jonathan Ball (right) introduces Marta Drexler, an ovarian cancer patient, to McBaine, who is participating in a study about how dogs detect cancer. Photograph by Matt Rourke, AP

You may also know that canines can detect the tiny molecular changes that distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones. Dogs in studies have perceived lung and breast cancer via a whiff of a patient’s breath, ovarian cancer from smelling blood, melanoma from the scent of skin, and colorectal cancer from the stink of stool samples. (Explore a human-body interactive.)

But enough about canines; they aren’t the only creatures with olfactory systems many times more sensitive than ours that we can tap for help.

This list is ever growing, but here’s a quick look at some unexpected “sniffers” that can perceive scents undetectable by humans—such as the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) associated with diseases—and then share their findings with us.

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