The Sense of Smell in Birds: a Debated Question


    ORGANS of smell are present in birds as a class and are well developed in many species, but much doubt attaches to the nature and extent of their usefulness. The South American vultures and the petrels are noteworthy for the size of their olfactory chambers, and the Apteryx possesses a complicated nasal labyrinth and is peculiar in having its nostrils at the extreme tip of the beak. Yet even in cases like these the practical demonstration of a sense of smell is beset with difficulties, and the existing evidence is conflicting and largely inconclusive. It seems difficult, of course, to believe that the apparatus serves no purpose, especially where it is highly developed or is specialised along particular lines, but apart from the unsatisfactory quality of a priori arguments the alternative must be borne in mind that the organs may have some other function than a sense of smell of the kind with which we are subjectively familiar.

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    The Sense of Smell in Birds: a Debated Question. Nature 109, 783–784 (1922).

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