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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain in what way smell and taste stimuli differ from other sensory stimuli
  • Identify the five primary tastes that can be distinguished by humans
  • Explain in anatomical terms why a dog’s sense of smell is more acute than a human’s

Taste, also called gustation    , and smell, also called olfaction    , are the most interconnected senses in that both involve molecules of the stimulus entering the body and bonding to receptors. Smell lets an animal sense the presence of food or other animals—whether potential mates, predators, or prey—or other chemicals in the environment that can impact their survival. Similarly, the sense of taste allows animals to discriminate between types of foods. While the value of a sense of smell is obvious, what is the value of a sense of taste? Different tasting foods have different attributes, both helpful and harmful. For example, sweet-tasting substances tend to be highly caloric, which could be necessary for survival in lean times. Bitterness is associated with toxicity, and sourness is associated with spoiled food. Salty foods are valuable in maintaining homeostasis by helping the body retain water and by providing ions necessary for cells to function.

Tastes and odors

Both taste and odor stimuli are molecules taken in from the environment. The primary tastes detected by humans are sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. The first four tastes need little explanation. The identification of umami    as a fundamental taste occurred fairly recently—it was identified in 1908 by Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda while he worked with seaweed broth, but it was not widely accepted as a taste that could be physiologically distinguished until many years later. The taste of umami, also known as savoriness, is attributable to the taste of the amino acid L-glutamate. In fact, monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is often used in cooking to enhance the savory taste of certain foods. What is the adaptive value of being able to distinguish umami? Savory substances tend to be high in protein.

All odors that we perceive are molecules in the air we breathe. If a substance does not release molecules into the air from its surface, it has no smell. And if a human or other animal does not have a receptor that recognizes a specific molecule, then that molecule has no smell. Humans have about 350 olfactory receptor subtypes that work in various combinations to allow us to sense about 10,000 different odors. Compare that to mice, for example, which have about 1,300 olfactory receptor types, and therefore probably sense more odors. Both odors and tastes involve molecules that stimulate specific chemoreceptors. Although humans commonly distinguish taste as one sense and smell as another, they work together to create the perception of flavor. A person’s perception of flavor is reduced if he or she has congested nasal passages.

Reception and transduction

Odorants (odor molecules) enter the nose and dissolve in the olfactory epithelium, the mucosa at the back of the nasal cavity (as illustrated in [link] ). The olfactory epithelium    is a collection of specialized olfactory receptors in the back of the nasal cavity that spans an area about 5 cm 2 in humans. Recall that sensory cells are neurons. An olfactory receptor    , which is a dendrite of a specialized neuron, responds when it binds certain molecules inhaled from the environment by sending impulses directly to the olfactory bulb of the brain. Humans have about 12 million olfactory receptors, distributed among hundreds of different receptor types that respond to different odors. Twelve million seems like a large number of receptors, but compare that to other animals: rabbits have about 100 million, most dogs have about 1 billion, and bloodhounds—dogs selectively bred for their sense of smell—have about 4 billion. The overall size of the olfactory epithelium also differs between species, with that of bloodhounds, for example, being many times larger than that of humans.

Questions & Answers

what is plant
Odion Reply
what are organisms
Godfred Reply
the diagram below show how the blood of a human embryo flows close to the mothers blood in the placenta . which substances are represent at x in higher concentrations than at y
Joyce Reply
what is ecology
Odion Reply
what is cell
what is cell
What is a cell
Awal Reply
What are tissues
A cell is the smallest unit of living organisms.
Tissues are group of similar cells performing a particular function.
how to pronounce the word cyanobacteria
siva Reply
Cyano then bacteria. look that "cyano" is just like "ciyano".
explain the term transpiration pull
Tank Reply
water is mainly " pulled" through the plant and that the driving force for this process is transpiration from the leaves .This is also referred to as the cohesion- tension -transpiration pull model transport.
what Is corona
My brother go and ask GOOGLE😷😷😷
Google it for the right answer. Corona is a virus which causes Novel Covid-19 disease that has been declared by WHO as a global or world pandemic.
Why is it called Covid-19?
jjwhat is. condinative system
condinative system is the system that harmonize all the. different. part. of. the. body and make. them function as a. specific unit
Describe the process of protein sythesis?
Kizito Reply
Ribosomes are responsible for protein synthesis in animals.
What is a ploidy level
Francis Reply
Ploidy refers to the number of chromosomes. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes in somatic cells. Sex cells are haploid thus 23 chromosomes vs. 46 Chromosomes.
Evolution is evolvement according to one's environment. Let's use humidity as an example. A person from a very cold environment would not be used to hot humid weather. But over time their body would slowly, slowly adapt.
Give me (3) types of biodiversity
Hi guys 🇧🇪
hello boy
what do you guys understand about evolution?
Kiana Reply
it's a process or analayzing some program
but am not sure if some know plz let share
is a study of
unfolding or unrolling hence the process of development of growth
is the periodic change of the structural features of an organism
I think
process of developing
hi guiz
hello guys
Evolution ~ Is the gradual change of development over time in which a new species are formed
Evolution is the sum total of adaptive changes that has existed before.
why are diagrams not available
Evans Reply
How can nucleotide molecules of DNA be constructed?construct a six molecules of DNA?
Julia Reply
You take a Deoxyribose sugar. The Deoxyribose sugar has a hydrogen on the second carbon vs. an OH group. The nitrogenous base binds to the #1 Carbon and a phosphate binds to the 5'. When the 2nd NBase bonds, it does so on the 3' Carbon. Thus you have 5' to 3' directional growth.
what is the explanation of local biomes in Nigeria
It would be savanna, tropical grassland.
describe the breathing mechanism in the body fish.
Jackson Reply
what is genetics.
the study of hereditary
state the importance of biodiversity of organisms in an area?
Chris Reply
Let's compare The Brazilian Rain Forest to Antarctica. There many, many types of flora and fona in The Rain Forest. So many that we are still discovering them vs. the variety in Antarctica.
it boosts the ecosystem where each species has an important tole

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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