For the first time, scientists believe they have found an animal completely devoid of any stench or smell — one that happens to be one of the more dangerous creatures known to humankind.
The puff adder (also known as Bitis arietans) is a species native to Saudi Arabia and the African continent, and is found mostly in savannahs and grasslands. While its attack MO usually pertains to an array of small animals, such as lizards, birds and amphibians, the puff adder will attack humans if threatened, and account for the most snake bite deaths in Africa as a whole; they will also attack each other for the same reason. The serpent's lack of scent essentially serves as an IRL invisibility cloak, making potential prey unaware of its presence.
In a paper published by Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a group of researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa explained that the snake uses "chemical crypsis" — or veiling of their scent through bodily chemical release.
Rather than using the lethal serpents as test subjects, the scientist came to their conclusion by training a selection of dogs and meerkats to recognize the respective scents of different species of snakes. After concluding their trial, the scientists found that their test sniffers could not pick out the scent — as if the puff adder had none.
So, why would the puff adder have this particular ability? As Gizmodo noted, the puff adder is relatively slow compared with other serps, and its scentless abilities give it an added layer of protection in the wild.
Photo: Bernard Dupont | Flickr