Features Sunday, March 22, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | March 22, 105 | 06:07 pm IST London: Elephants are better than dogs at identifying explosives by smell and are also superior at remembering their training than trained canines, researchers have found. Elephants could be used to detect landmines in areas that have seen conflict and could even do so at a distance with the aid of drones. The research was conducted in South Africa and involved the US military, reported Daily Mail. They were rewarded with a treat of marula - a tasty fruit - when they showed that they recognised samples of TNT by raising a front leg. "They work it out very, very quickly," said Stephen Lee, head scientist at the US Army Research Office, which backed the study financially. He said that elephants remember their training longer than dogs. Last summer, researchers confirmed that African elephants have the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom. Scientists from the University of Tokyo said elephants have the largest number of genes dedicated to smell compare with any other mammal. They have 2,000 genes that are dedicated to scent - twice as many as dogs and five times as many as humans. Previous studies have shown that the animals have well-developed olfactory systems that include large olfactory bulbs and areas in the brain. Researchers decided to investigate further and in Bela-Bela, a town north of the South African capital of Pretoria, three elephants were administered smelling tests. The elephants detected TNT samples 73 out of the 74 times that they encountered it in a line of buckets. They only got this wrong 3.6 percent of the time over 502 buckets that contained the explosive, which was dissolved in acetone on filter paper. All other buckets were filled with acetone and filter paper only. In a second set of tests, the elephants scored 100 percent, detecting TNT in 23 out of 23 buckets when "distractor odours" such as tea, bleach, soap and gasoline were placed in the other buckets. With IANS
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