Science 21 March 2014: Vol. 343 no. 6177 pp. 1370-1372
Excerpt: “You might move to some part of the world where you’ve never encountered the fruits and vegetables and flowers that grow there. But your nose is ready. With a sensory system that is that complex, we are fully ready for anything.” — Leslie Vosshall
My comment to Science Magazine (submitted but not published to their site):
I would have erred had I not cited other works by Vosshall and Keller in the concluding sentence of my 2012 review: “Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors.”
“Socioaffective neuroscience and psychology may progress more quickly by keeping these apparent facts in mind: Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans (Keller et al., 2007; Kohl, 2007; Villarreal, 2009; Vosshall, Wong, & Axel, 2000).”
Now that our detection abilities have been evaluated, I wonder why there is no mention of our ability to detect species-specific social odors, called pheromones. It’s become obvious that conserved molecular mechanisms link the epigenetic landscape to the physical landscape of DNA in species from microbes to man. Other recent reports attest to that fact:
Therefore, in the context of our detection abilities, I think others may have erred by not citing one of my other reviews: “Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model”
Clear attestations to the plasticity of our olfactory system, which links ecological variation to ecological adaptations, now suggest that “adaptive evolution” should be called ecological adaptation. In the presence of food odors and nutrients that metabolize to species-specific pheromones that control the physiology of reproduction, ecological adaptation is what’s expected to occur.
What this latest report now shows is the degree of fine-tuning that is possible after ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction has already occurred — and resulted in the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled increased organismal complexity that is us.
Now that Mainland et al have published “The missense of smell: functional variability in the human odorant receptor repertoire” and Foote et al have published “Tracking niche variation over millennial timescales in sympatric killer whale lineages,” the similarities at the top of the aquatic and terrestrial food chains attest to the power of conserved molecular mechanisms to link cause and effect across all species via olfaction and odor receptors, which is what I detailed in the review I submitted last week.
It’s been more than a week since I submitted the comment above. Since other comments I have submitted have always been published within 5 days of their submission, I published the comment above to The Scientist. See: The Nose Knows
The human nose can differentiate more than a trillion odors, a study finds.
By Rina Shaikh-Lesko | March 25, 2014