Many organisms produce the smell of earth, geosmin, and many others can sense it–but why?
Microbe of the episode:
- The pleasant smell of wet soil indicates danger to bacteria-eating worms, researchers find
In this study, different geosmin-producing bacteria were paired with tiny bacteria-eating roundworms, nematodes, to see how the chemical affected their interactions. Production of geosmin affected the worms' movement, apparently inducing them to avoid colonies of the producing microbes in some cases, though the worms still sometimes fed on the bacteria. Adding geosmin to colonies of different bacteria did not affect the worms' behavior though, so other factors seem to be involved.
Zaroubi L, Ozugergin I, Mastronardi K, Imfeld A, Law C, Gélinas Y, Piekny A, Findlay BL. 2022. The Ubiquitous Soil Terpene Geosmin Acts as a Warning Chemical. Appl Environ Microbiol 88:e00093-22.