I'm not kidding. Was just watching my German Shepherd sniffing away at a new Amazon box. ...realized she sniffs vast array of DNA from organic material when on a walk: millions of mammalian, plant, fungi, etc. DNA molecules.

It would promote fitness of a species if DNA has a method of feature exploitation from cross-species DNA "pollination."

Wondering if anyone has heard of research

I was in microbio a short time while inventing the software for first DNA editing robot for Inscripta back in 2017. Process was CRSPR. Over 1000 steps. If a simple bacteria has the capability to remove a DNA exploit from a virus, should not the reverse be possible?

If I was God, I'd dub that in for sure. Would allow faster local adaptation, should humanity get to other worlds.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What's your question? $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Mar 22, 2022 at 13:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Whole DNA cannot travel from the olfactory system (or the digestive system, for that matter) into cells' nuclei and be transcribed/translated. That would be very bad if it did - would you like to start expressing fruit genes every time you smelled a fruit, or bacterial/fungal genes when you smelled dirty shoes? "Adapting to the local environment" does not mean expressing local genes. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Mar 22, 2022 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ S Pr: When a dog sniffs up organic material that contains DNA, is it possible his genome incorporates it? $\endgroup$
    – Doug Null
    Mar 22, 2022 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ MattDMo: Good point. But if a dog or a human sniffs a virus, can it get at our cells and reprogram them to replicate the virus? $\endgroup$
    – Doug Null
    Mar 22, 2022 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ But that's what viruses do, it's part of the definition. I'm unclear how you might have been working in microbiology and not have encountered the basics. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2022 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


Animals don't really smell DNA or any nucleic acid

I am not aware and really truly doubt any mammalian (nor vertebrate/invertebrate) organism can detect DNA/RNA via the olfactory system (nose, antenna, sensilla, etc.).

Typically we think of the olfactory system as reserved for volatiles (odors), and the gustatory system for tastants like salt and sugar and bitter compounds. A dog cannot smell DNA as typically present in nature in ecologically-relevant contexts, as DNA is not volatile at all (it's a giant molecule, and things you can smell are typically very small in molecular weight, with a low vapor pressure). Even if present in droplets, it wouldn't be detected by olfactory receptors, which are the interface responsible for transducing chemical "odor information" into electrical information processed by the nervous system. I once also answered a question about whether one can smell or taste viruses and spores; the answer is categorically no. You can only smell or taste some of its components can can become airborne. You could perhaps smell some outcome of a viral infection or the metabolites or by-products of mold, but not the cells or viral particles themselves.

Can DNA be incorporated in the nasal/olfactory epithelium?

Oh, no. It's even less likely is the possibility that DNA is taken up by cells in the olfactory epithelium. And even if it was to be taken up by cells, genome incorporation of random DNA is pretty much impossible. That's extremely unlikely, on top of extremely unlikely.

However, can we taste nucleic acids like DNA?

You can perform this test yourself at home! The easiest way would be to try isolating some DNA from strawberries, which are octaploid and a great source of easy DNA! If you were to taste it, according to one person, you would find it

salty and slimy after sitting in his mouth for as long as he could stand it. Conclusion: strawberry DNA is best eaten accompanied by the rest of the strawberry.

Probably salty due to the sodium and potassium ions that neutralize the charge of the phosphate backbone that is present in DNA.


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