Can You Identify the Animal by Its Nose?

By: Monica Lee

It seems they can smell danger a mile away. You can tell when deer stop and get still. They are waiting to see if a predator is heading toward them, ready to pounce or walking away in another direction.

One bunny is twitching its nose furiously, and the other is wigging its nose slowly. Which will be easier to pet? A slowly wiggling nose indicates a calm rabbit. Rabbits usually use nose wiggling to indicate fine gradations in their mood.

Not only used for finding food, the squirrel's nose is so advanced, it can detect which nuts have been invaded by insects. The sense of smell is also important in identifying and marking territory.

Although it looks like horses have two nostrils, there are four. When working hard or racing, a fold is lifted inside the horse's nostrils to gain​ access to the second set of nostrils and allow a bigger volume of air to enter.

Fight or flight. Beavers use their nose to measure up the competition. Anal gland secretions of beavers contain information about age and social status which helps other beavers gauge trespassers who could be a threat.

An otter's nostrils close when under water. A sea otter's nose pad is large, bare, black, and diamond-shaped. It can also have nose pads that are dusky or pinkish in color.

You can tell this is a llama by the rounded muzzle. If you come up to a llama and are a stranger, you may get a good look at their nose. Because of their curiosity, they have a delightful habit of coming close to sniff strangers.

Scents help cheetahs find each other. They frequently mark their territory with urine and tree scratches. When traveling to hunt, they can​ find their way back by using their nose.

When a lion is born, it has a pink nose. As it ages, small, black spots appear. These grow in size and number until the nose is completely black, usually after eight years. The nose helps scientists estimate the age of a lion.

The camel's nose acts both as a humidifier and a dehumidifier to minimize body water loss through breathing. There is an intricate labyrinth of air passageways in the camel's nose which increases the surface area inside the nose substantially. This labyrinth is used to add moisture to incoming air and absorb moisture from the air on the way out.

Besides rooting out truffles, the pig's snout is used to move, turn, and lift objects. The snout is also used to assist in eating and smelling.

The trunk is an elephant's most versatile tool, used for breathing, smelling, touching, grasping, and producing sound. The trunk twists and pulls the grasses growing on the plains then places them in the elephant's mouth.

First, the anteater's nose senses an ant mound. Then the fun begins. It swiftly rips apart the mound with sharp claws. Next the anteater’s elongated head and nose are perfectly designed to get in and out of a termite mound or anthill. Finally, it fills its belly with delicious ants.

Giraffes have specialized noses that can close to keep sand and dust out of their nostrils during African dust storms. Without tissues growing on trees, if a giraffe blows its nose to clear out the dust, it will use its long tongue to take care of anything else that might have come out of its nose.

The over-sized, colorful bill of the toucan is useful as a feeding tool. The birds use them to reach fruit on branches that are too small to support their weight. During mating, both toucans catch tasty morsels and pitch them to one another as part of a ritual.

The long muzzles and large noses on the pandas give​ them an excellent sense of smell. They need this good sense of smell to know their territory, which is marked with secretions from scent glands and scratch marks on trees.

Sizing up the competition is done with a zebra's nose. When herd stallions meet, they approach and stand with their heads up. Next, they slowly approach with their heads down and ears cocked. As they meet, they will sniff nose-to-nose among other rituals.

Sharks know where their next meal is located. Leopard sharks have an incredibly keen sense of smell. Some species are able to sniff out blood at a concentration of about one part per million, and others can smell the scantest oils from their prey at distances of several hundred feet.

You should never get so near to a tiger that you can see its nose this close up. Tigers will pick up a scent on their upper lip and curl it upwards towards their nose to investigate the smell. This behavior makes the tiger appear to be snarling but without any sound.

Wrinkles around gorillas' noses, which are called nose prints, are similar to human fingerprints. These wrinkles are unique for each individual and are often used by human researchers for identification.

Sheep know the scent of predators and use that to protect themselves. They also use their sense of smell to locate ewes in heat or for mothers to locate their lambs. Their excellent olfactory senses are used to locate water and detect differences in feed and pasture plants.

Rhinos have a strong sense of smell and hearing, but poor eyesight. They can smell a predator and food. A word of warning, don't get between a rhino and what they're looking for!

Although the nose of the proboscis monkey amplifies warning calls, it doesn't provide a better sense of smell than other monkeys with much smaller noses. When this monkey is threatened, blood will rush to its nose and actually cause this already large nose to swell.

Don't think you're safe if you see a hippo floating in the water. Because its eyes, ears, and nose are positioned at the top of its head, it can see, smell and hear when in the water. When hippos dive, their ears and nostrils close automatically.

You might find this surprising. Dolphins don't have a sense of smell. Instead, they use their sense of taste like a sense of smell. Dolphins will often taste the water around them.

A bear’s sense of smell is 2,100 times better than that of a human. With an olfactory bulb at least five times larger than that in human brains, a bear can detect animal carcasses upwind and from a distance of 20 miles away.

If you had to find your food by smell, you too would have developed a nose like this. If you look closely, the end of the nose is slightly swollen with large nostrils and is incredibly soft to the touch.

A hammerhead shark would never be called "The Chicken of the Sea" but they could be called "The best sniffers of the sea." Take a look inside of a hammerhead shark's brain, and you'll see that two thirds of its brain weight is dedicated to decoding smells.

Was this a confusing question because moose and elk are so closely related? The elk is smaller and more slender than the moose, without the bulbous nose.

This little stinker is a skunk. These bushy-tailed creatures are widely known for the foul-smelling musk they spray to ward off enemies. Skunks have a keen sense of smell that they use to detect predators and find food.

This was another hard question as chipmunks are rodents and members of the squirrel family. Chipmunks use their acute sense of smell to find seeds, including acorns, hickory nuts, and hazelnuts. They also eat wild berries, grain, domestic fruits, mushrooms, pumpkins, and other squash.

The distinctive, flexible proboscis-like snout on the tapir is formed from tissues of the upper lip and nose. The tapir has an extremely large nasal cavity with a highly developed vomeronasal organ that is used to detect pheromones (chemical messages) from other tapirs.

The Tasmanian Devil can be heard and smelled before this stocky and muscular animal is seen. It has black fur, a pungent odor, and an extremely loud and disturbing screech. However, it must be able to negate its own smell, as it can detect scents at more than half a mile away.

A frog uses its two nostrils to smell odors in the air. It also has a second type of olfactory organ between the nostrils, called the Jacobson's organ. It is used to detect chemicals in the water.

On average, the needlenose gar may live for 15 to 20 years. The female needlenose gar can grow up to 6.5 feet long. The male is usually smaller and lighter than the female.

Seals have a keen sense of smell in the air, which allows them to detect predators. However, in the water, they use their whiskers to detect prey. That's because while swimming, their nostrils are kept tightly shut.

With its long pointed nose, you would think the Afghan hound would have a keen sense of smell. However,​ it's their eyesight that is keen with a field of vision of 270 degrees.

They dig tunnels underground utilizing their long nose to seek worms as well as insects when it becomes dark. The star-nosed mole has a snout that ends in a ring of 22 fleshy tentacles loaded with touch sensors. It's the stuff of nightmares.

With their long noses, elephant shrews search for their supper on the ground, eating insects and arachnids. They have an interesting trap. They create a series of tiny paths on the ground and wait until prey appears.

Armadillos don't look athletic but are good at swimming, jumping, climbing and digging. They make use of their sharp claws to get ants, termites and small reptiles, as well as to dig burrows. These mammals don't have good eyesight, but make up for it with an excellent sense of smell that helps them find food and detect enemies.

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Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Although not the prettiest of appendages, the nose has a very important role to play in the animal kingdom. Each nose you see in this quiz has evolved in response to the environment. Whether the surroundings are cold, hot, arid, or moist, the nose knows how to survive on land and sea. 

Take a good look at the noses in each picture. Some with scales or spots might be easy to recognize. But you can also get a hint as to the environment of the animal by the shape of its nose. For instance, one of the many functions of the nose and nasal cavity is to act as an “air conditioner.” A longer nose allows the air an animal breathes to be made warm and humid enough to avoid damaging the delicate lining of the lungs. The nose can also be used as a tool to burrow into narrow places or to bring food to an animal's mouth. And it is especially useful for sensing prey and detecting danger. 

Now don't get your nose out of joint if you find this quiz challenging. While you're playing, you'll also learn a bit about the different types of schnozes out there. Take the quiz now ... just don't blow it!

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