Mice have a fairly simple life. Their main goals are to eat, survive, and procreate – if only we had it so easy! While mice are seemingly basic creatures, a new study published in the journal Current Biology shows that mice may be more intelligent in selecting their meals than previously thought – they use halitosis!
Past studies showed that rodents do use their noses to decide what to eat when around peers, they just couldn’t figure out how. This new study by US, German and Russian physiologists and neurobiologists finds that mice determine their meal choices based on the bad breath and sulfuric chemicals on the breath of other mice. Mice have a GC-D necklace subsystem (a subset of the olfactory system) that can detect chemicals on mouse breath. This allows mice to identify if a food source is safe or not.
The chemical mice can detect is carbon disulfide. Bad breath in humans is usually composed of similar sulfur-based molecules including hydrogen sulfide (which smells like rotting eggs) and dimethyl sulfide (which smells like cabbage).
The research team found that mice that do not smell carbon disulfide on other mice will not change their eating habits. However, mice that do find the stinky smell will alter their meals choices. Even mice don’t want to have bad breath!