WASHINGTON, D.C., November 19, 2018 -- Some animals have a superpower in their sense of smell.

They explore, interpret and understand their world with such sensitivity that people have enlisted canines to help solve crime and detect cancer on the breath.

"We turned to animals to understand what nature has already figured out," said Thomas Spencer, a doctoral candidate in David Hu's lab at Georgia Tech.

Their work began inauspiciously at a competition to develop a sensor that could identify different varieties of cheese.

Turning to nature to guide their work, they traveled to the Atlanta Zoo to compare the way different animals sniff, from mice to elephants.

After reviewing the data, they found that sniffing speed decreases as body size increases; put another way, mice sniff faster than elephants.

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