“Smelling to survive: Skulls offer insights into the evolution of olfaction in mammals.”


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with Deborah Bird, Post Doctoral Fellow, UCLA Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. Most mammals are heavily reliant on their sense of smell to locate food, avoid predators and poisons, recognize potential mates, identify kin and mark territories. Yet, there are some exceptions to this. Evolution has sculpted a wide array of mammalian olfactory systems in response to differing ecologies, resulting in mammal species that are heavily reliant on scent cues (e.g. White Mountains species), others less reliant on smell (e.g. humans) and others that have lost their sense of smell altogether (e.g. toothed whales). One clue to this diversity of olfactory systems lies deep within the skull, in the small, perforated bone between the snout and brain called the cribriform plate (CP). Because the CP carries a precise imprint of olfactory nerves, and it varies in size across species, we hypothesized that it could be used to compare how reliant species are on olfaction for survival. This talk will take you inside the mammalian skull to visualize the workings of smell, and outside the skull as well to investigate the ways White Mountain mammals communicate through scent cues.

Event Status: Scheduled

Attendence mode: Remote