• Get a whiff

    Get a whiff

    Elephants have the highest count of genes associated with olfactory reception (about 2 000 compared to 811 for dogs) of any species tested to date. They are also nearly 5% more likely than dogs to sniff out the main element in landmines – trinitrotoluene (TNT), as reported by the Conversation Africa.

    Trial findings in a study by Ashadee Kay Miller (a PhD candidate at the Wits University’s School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences), involving individual filter papers with with trace amounts of various scents (including TNT, petroleum, acetone, bleach, detergent, tea as well as placebos) show the elephants missed just one out of the 97 samples. This equates into a sensitivity score of 99.7% – which is considerably higher than the 93.7% for dogs.

    ‘Elephants’ ability to correctly identify a learned scent from other odours suggests they may also be useful in other biosensor fields, such as early disease detection,’ writes Miller. ‘Elephants could rival dogs’ sensitivity abilities in these fields, as they did for TNT detection.’

    24 October 2017
    Image: Gallo/Getty Images