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Try It! - Does Your Sense Of Smell Stink?

Some animals smell better than people. Well, let me put that another way. Some animals have a more highly developed sense of smell than humans. Often that compensates for a more poorly developed sense of sight or hearing or for the fact that they are active at night or they live in a dark or silty habitat. Bats use their sense of smell and hearing to find their young among the hundreds or thousands of baby bats when they return from a trip outside a cave to feed. Here’s an activity you can do with your family and friends to discover who might be the best mother bat.

Probably the easiest variation of this activity to prepare at home is use spray perfumes or colognes or liquid flavorings (peppermint or cinnamon for example) available at grocery stores. Moisten two cotton swabs or balls with one scent and one cotton swab with each of the other scents. One person, representing the mother bat, is given one of the two cotton swabs with the same scent. The rest of the swabs, including the matching scent, are given to the other “bats.”

The mother bat then smells the swabs of the bats until she finds her baby (the matching scent). You can repeat the activity, allowing different people to be the mother.

A variation would be to use matched sets of swabs. Place one set of the swabs on a table and give the other set to a family member. The person then takes one swab, smells it and goes to the table and finds the swab with the same scent. Place the two swabs together and continue finding matches until all the scents are matched. You can even time each participant to create a friendly competition if you’d like. Another variation involves giving an even number of participants matched sets of swabs and have them walk around until they find their “match.”


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