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My name is Leslie Vosshall,
I'm Chemers Family Associate Professor at
the Rockefeller University in New York.
And I'll be talking to you today about
the genetics of chemosensory transduction:
taste and smell.
Comparing strategies in vertebrates and
in the genetic organism,
the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.
All animals, from the most
primitive life forms to humans,
have some sort of a sense
of the external world.
And these senses allow animals to
interact with their environment,
acquire information, and
make adaptive decisions.
Most higher animals have five senses,
the physical senses of touch, vision,
and hearing, and
the chemical senses of taste and smell.
And it's the latter two,
the chemical senses,
that I'll be discussing
in this presentation.
These senses allow animals to find food,
avoid predators and find mates.
So for instance, an animal will smell
fire long before it hears it, or sees it.
And this is a very ancient
sensory modality that animals
have to recognize
the distinctive odor of fire.
The senses of taste and
smell are crucial for
animals to find food,
And also to find mates.
So it's well described that animals will
release substances called pheromones that
will allow males and females to recognize
each other as being of the same species
and of the appropriate sex for mating.
The odor of a predator is
an extremely important cue for
small prey animals that they recognize and
So for instance, in the mouse brain there
are neurons that are exquisitely tuned to
the smell of fox and coyote urine.
And this is an adaptive use
of the sense of smell for
animals to avoid their
predators at a distance.