Humans aren’t the only ones to appreciate the earthy aroma after an April rain shower. That smell—known as petrichor—stems from microscopic streptomycete bacteria in the soil that produce a compound called geosmin, The Times reports. Although geosmin can be toxic to some species, others, such as the insectlike springtail (pictured), associate it with a meal. A recent study published this week in Nature Microbiology used tiny electrodes to monitor the response of springtails’ sensitive antennae to the scent of geosmin. Given two paths in a Y-shaped tube, the creatures overwhelmingly followed the invisible scent trail. Researchers believe that in exchange for a nibble off the colony, springtails carry off bacterial spores to colonize new habitats, just as bees do for flowering plants. This mutually beneficial relationship helps the bacteria survive when soil conditions are poor.
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