Bowhead whales sniff out "boiled cabbage" prey

[23 July, 2010] Scientists have recently discovered that bowhead whales are able to take in scents in order to track down krill - which apparently smell like "boiled cabbage".

A recent dissection of a bowhead whale for the study into the size of their brain sizes, surprised scientists when they stumbled upon olfactory hardware linking the brain and nose, as well as functional protein receptors required to smell.

Previously whales were thought to lack this olfactory sense, as smell is the brain's processing of airborne molecules.

"It is remarkable that this animal, which appears to have very little use for olfaction, retained that sense," said Professor Hans Thewissen of the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine.

"We speculate that they are actually able to smell krill and may use this to locate their prey. Krill smells like boiled cabbage."

  • NSW Government
  • National Parks & Wildlife Service NSW