You may not have heard of geosmin but, wherever you may be on this planet, it is highly likely that you’d recognise its smell.
Geosmin is the soil-based compound that gives the evocative, earthy smell so characteristic of spring. It’s best appreciated after recent rainfall or while digging. The human nose is so sensitive to the compound that it is detectable at one hundred parts per trillion. In other words, we can sense geosmin better than sharks can detect blood.
But why does it exist, this odour that has perfumed the planet for nearly half a billion years? New research by scientists in Sweden and the UK has helped to explain why. MORE
Header image: ‘Springtails’. Credit: Ryszard I, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0