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Bath researchers investigate how hammerhead sharks smell
Dr Jonathan Cox and a model of a hammerhead shark
Dr Jonathan Cox watches how red dye flows into the nose of the shark model

Researchers from the University of Bath are using the latest technology to find out how sharks sniff out their prey.

They can smell a drop of blood from up to a kilometre away, but not much is known about why they are so sensitive.

Dr Jonathan Cox has been testing a scale model of a hammerhead shark to see how water flows around the nasal cavity of its strange flattened head.

The research could be used in chemical sensors for underwater exploration, medicine and counter-terrorism.

Dr Cox, from the university's department of chemistry, has been working with researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Natural History Museum in London.

The researchers did a CT scan of a shark's head from the Natural History Museum's collection, with the scan then being used to make an accurate model of the head and nasal cavity with a 3D printer.

The model featured recently on BBC2's Museum of Life series about the Natural History Museum.

Hammerhead shark by AP
Hammerheads eat fish, other sharks, squid, octopus, and crustaceans

This is the first time a detailed model of a hammerhead shark's head has been made to study the creature's amazing sense of smell.

Dr Jonathan Cox said: "Whereas humans use their lungs like a bellows to inhale air through their noses to smell, the hammerhead shark smells as it swims forwards, propelling water through its nose.

"The nasal cavity of the hammerhead is like a labyrinth of pipes, with a central U-shaped channel and lots of smaller channels leading off it.

"The smaller channels contain the olfactory receptors, and so we're looking at how the water flows through these channels as the shark swims forwards.

"Sharks sweep their heads from side to side when they swim, so to simulate this we change the angle of the head model in the tank and observe the flow at each angle."

You can watch a short video about the research at the University of Bath website.

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