Biology KS3: How is smell used to communicate in the animal kingdom?

Professor Sophie Scott begins by outlining that all smells are made of something physical.

They are parts of a body or object, which have been released into the air as chemicals.

We then detect them in our noses through chemical detectors.

She explains how pheromones are chemicals that one organism leaves to communicate with another in the same species.

Insects are the champion users of pheromones in the animal kingdom.

Dr Gia Aradottir, an expert in how insects used pheromone messaging, joins Sophie to demonstrate how aphids use pheromones to send alarm signals.

She goes on to explain how predators have learnt to recognise the alarm pheromone, and how they use it to eavesdrop on communication.

Dr Aradottir demonstrates this in action using parasitic wasps.

This clip is from the The Royal Institution Christmas Lecture - The Language of Life.

Teacher Notes

After watching this film, you could explore how different smells have different meanings.

Get a blindfold and a selection of things that have a strong smell (cheese, chocolate etc) and test out how your students react differently.

Curriculum Notes

This film is relevant for teaching Physics and Biology at Key Stage 3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and at 3rd Level in Scotland.