Sharks are famous for sniffing out prey, but new research shows their keen sense of smell also helps them navigate, Smithsonian reports. Previously, researchers had noticed that scent-processing areas of the brain are larger in shark species that do a lot of navigating. To learn more, researchers caught 26 small leopard sharks near the California coast, plugged the nostrils of half of them, equipped them with acoustic transmitters, and released them several miles offshore. Sharks that could smell soon figured out the right direction, but those with plugged nostrils took more roundabout paths and didn’t make it as far home before their transmitters fell off, the researchers reported today in PLOS ONE. The researchers suspect that other shark species may also navigate by scent over short distances, though they probably use other cues to cross the open ocean.
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