Friday, April 15, 2016

Why Do Bearcats Smell Like Popcorn?

Many of us don't know what a bearcat is let along have seen one, but these unique animals are neither bear nor cat. They are native to Southeast Asia and the bearcat has a very amusing fact about them, and that is they apparently smell like buttered popcorn. A team of scientist from the Carolina Tiger Rescue believe they have cracked the mystery as to why the bearcat smells like popcorn and where the smell comes from. The compound that they found that is responsible for the smell is also found it real popcorn itself surprisingly enough. Scientists originally believed the compound/smell came from a sent gland at the base of the bearcat's tail but when they tried to locate the compound they came up with nothing.

It wasn't until they were checking the urine samples of bearcats at a American nature reserve, that the team of scientists found what they where looking for. The team used a technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry on the urine samples and found the chemical compound 2-AP which is the same compound found in popcorn that gives it its smell. The urine which is sprayed on the ground as well as on their own feet is used as a territory marker designed to ward off other bearcats competing for resources, and to attract potential mates.

Since the bearcat doesn't eat popcorn in the wild the team of scientist wanted to know how they made the 2-AP compound. They believe that there is certain bacteria in the bearcat that uses the urine as a source of nutrients. When the bacteria begin to break down the urine, they inadvertently produce 2-AP which in turn gives of the popcorn smell

Original source:

1 comment:

  1. This is fun fact for a zoo or nature reserve to tell their observers. I wonder if scientist can now figure out if the bearcats have always had this compound or was it an evolutionary development. And if it has been an evolutionary development, when did it happen and why?