Sharks' sense of smell vastly overrated

Everyone knows that sharks have an amazing sense of smell. Toss a chunk of salmon into the shark tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, and you can see it in action.

“They know right away when the scent hits the water,” said Erin Carter, an aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium who works with several species of sharks. “If it’s fresh food that’s just been delivered that morning from the dock, they’ll just go nuts for it.”

But can these aquatic bloodhounds really detect a drop of blood in an Olympic-sized swimming pool or a mile away in the ocean, as the popular legend suggests?

This myth smelled a little fishy to scientists in Florida, who decided to put it to the test. They found that sharks don’t live up to their reputation in the movies, documentaries, and pages of scientific journals. Although a shark’s sense of smell is extremely keen, it’s no better than that of a typical fish.

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