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Animals must find food, find mates, and avoid potential dangers, such as predators, to survive and perpetuate their species. To achieve these goals, the vast majority of animals use their senses to navigate though their environments. Myriad organisms, from bacteria to humans, sense ambient chemicals to help them navigate. Olfaction (smell), the modality that senses volatile chemicals, is especially important for many organisms.

An odorous molecule contains no spatial information. However, as molecules are deposited on surfaces or spread out in air or water, their pattern of deposition over space and time can provide rich information regarding the location of the source that emitted them. The exact information available, and how this information is used, depends on the species and the medium in which the odor ...

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