The Secret Science of SMELL

Not everything smells with a nose or tastes with a tongue.

A snake smells with its tongue.

A snake uses its forked tongue to pick up scent molecules from the air. When it brings its tongue back in, the molecules contact special receptors and the snake senses the molecules as a smell.

A fly tastes with its feet.

At the end of a fly’s legs is a foot-like structure with special hairs on it. The hairs have receptors that sense the molecules the fly steps on. So a fly tastes with its feet!


An octopus tastes with its legs – all eight of them!

If you count the suckers on all 8 legs of an octopus, there can be almost 2,000 of them. Each sucker has many receptors that detect molecules in the water. The receptors send signals to the octopus’s brain about the molecules. That’s how an octopus tastes with its legs! 

World’s Best Sniffers


An elephant can smell a source of water from about 12 miles away.


If the wind is blowing in the right direction, a bear can smell a dead animal from 20 miles away.


Bloodhounds have such a great sense of smell, they can stay on the trail of a scent through crowded streets or shopping centers. They have been known to stay on a scent for over 100 miles!


The male Luna moth can detect the scent of a female Luna moth from over 6 miles away.