Yes, fish can smell. Fish have two tiny openings called nares, one acts as an inlet and the other as an outlet for the water. As water passes through these nares, it comes in contact with olfactory organs that detect the smell. The sense of smell in the fish helps them to find food, avoid attacks by predators, locate mates for reproduction, and navigate in the water. Hence, fish living in dark places rely heavily on their olfactory sense to survive.
Do fish smell?
Have you ever wondered, can fish smell underwater? In humans, the nose has primary two functions: acts as an entrance to the respiratory tract, and contains the olfactory organ to smell. But in the case of fish, we know that the fish breathe through their gills. Now, you must be thinking, do fish have a sense of smell or they use their gills to smell?
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Well, the answer is yes, fish do have a sense of smell and can easily smell underwater. They can’t use their gills to smell. Let’s understand how the olfactory organ in fish works.
How do fish smell?
The fish’s nose has two tiny openings similar to nostrils in the humans. These small holes act as inlet and outlet openings separated by the flap. These nostrils in fish are also known as nares. As the fish swims in the ocean, the flap forces water to enter in the nose through the front opening and exits through the rear opening. While traveling through these nostrils, water comes in contact with the olfactory organs present inside the nose. These sensory organs detect smell and send a neural response to the brain. In this way, the fish smells the chemical around it.
How the sense of smell helps fish to survive?
The sense of smell is very essential for the survival of the fish, especially those who live deep in the ocean. Fishes living in the bathypelagic zone, and abyssopelagic zone of the ocean are exposed to almost zero sunlight. Therefore, these fish cannot see in the dark and hence rely more on their olfactory and gustatory organs to survive.
Fish use their nostrils to detect different chemicals present in the water. These chemicals can be the signal of their prey or predator.
Fish use their olfactory organs to find food, locate mates for reproduction, and direction during migration.
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Some interesting fish such as salmon, use the magnetic field of the earth for direction during migration in the ocean whereas, in freshwater, they use their olfactory organs for navigation by detecting the chemical fingerprint in the stream.
When a fish gets injured, they release a chemical that acts as an alert for the other fish to flee away.
So, if you are still thinking, do your pet fish such as goldfish can smell?
The answer is yes, goldfish have olfactory organs to smell the scents present in the surrounding water.