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The Science of Scent: It’s the Pits!

February 17, 2017

Wash your hair, brush your teeth, and roll on the deodorant! Every morning, millions of people perform their daily grooming rituals to try and make themselves a little less smelly. But did you know that you don’t stink, your microbes do?

Bacteria on our skin, especially in the armpits, thrive from nutrients in our sweat and in turn produce your body’s own signature smell. Animal “fragrance” is significant in primate behavior and has implications in mate selection and other evolutionary adaptations. At the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Dr. Julie Horvath, in collaboration with Julie Urban, Sarah Council, Holly Menninger, Dan Fergus, Amy Savage, Meg Ehlers, and Rob Dunn’s group at NC State University, conducted an armpit biodiversity project to identify the microbes that live in our armpits and how products like antiperspirant and deodorant affect an individual’s microbiome. New projects investigating the microbes on human and non-human primate skin are ongoing in the lab with numerous additional collaborators. Take a tour inside the Genomics and Microbiology Research Lab with Dr. Horvath and Dr. Marianne Barrier to learn all about the exciting science of scent!

Learn more about the past project here.

This video was produced by Chloe Allen, Charlotte Tate, Kiera Tai, and Hannah Bonet of the Teen Newsroom program at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

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