Friday, October 27, 2006

 

Ancient human hunters smelt blood on the breeze

From New Scientist: Our ability to detect the characteristic metallic smell left on the skin after handling iron-containing objects like coins and keys may have evolved for a more gory purpose: to help our hunter ancestors track down wounded prey.

Fats on the skin break down to form volatile, strong-smelling substances called ketones and aldehydes when they come into contact with iron - whether it comes from the environment or from haemoglobin in blood - says Dietmar Glindemann, a chemist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. [Continued at "Ancient human hunters smelt blood on the breeze"]
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The above is based on a paper from the Angewandte Chemie International Edition titled "The Two Odors of Iron when Touched or Pickled: (Skin) Carbonyl Compounds and Organophosphines" (Abstract) [Odours]

Requests for pdf reprints of this article can be obtained via Scientific Publications of Dietmar Glindemann

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