3
$\begingroup$

So, I watched James Cameron's "Avatar" a few days ago and something on the wildlife of Pandora caught my attention:

Most* of the creatures seem to have distinct organs for breathing and for smelling things.

Here's some pictures of the "Direhorse". They have large orifices on the side of their necks that are often shown to move in sync with their breathing. Let's call those the "breathing nostrils". But they also have tiny orifices on the tip of their snouts that are in prime smelling position, so I'm assuming they are "smelling nostrils".

yummy

I admit the "smelling nostrils" are a bit fuzzy, so here's a second picture where they should be more visible, right above the mouth.

enter image description here

This pattern is present in many other creatures in the film, such as the "Thanator"...

kitty

...and the "Viperwolf".

enter image description here

So, my question is what is the benefit of having your olfactory organs away from your breathing organs?


Now that I think about it, real life frogs also have "smelling nostrils" as well as "breathing 'nostrils'" in their skin, but I guess they're slightly distinct because both pairs are respiratory.


*The Na'Vi, notably, seem to both breathe and smell through the same orifices, but that can be easily explained by the film crew wanting them to look much more human-like.

$\endgroup$
13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The vast majority of vertebrates have no linkage between their olfactory and respiratory systems. We call them fish; fish do not breathe through their nostrils. (And frogs most definitely have one single pair of nostrils, just like us.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 23:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please avoid asking subjective questions ("what is the benefit of X?" is always subjective). Here's my point: I could answer by saying, "your environment could have a toxin that, if absorbed into the bloodstream, would kill the creature, but the concentration of that toxin results in an odor that represents a nearby food source that's required for life, therefore the redundant air sacks needed for disconnected smelling and breathing could evolve." But look at how much supposition I had to invent to propose a dubious (and arguably unbelievable) answer? (*continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 0:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Consequently, the question seems more of an invitation to a discussion (off-topic) than it does a search for an objective answer to develop a world (on-topic). Therefore, VTC Opinion-based (too subjective). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 0:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ OP: you might want to clarify what your question actually is. You gave us half a dozen examples of animals from a third party intellectual property --- i.e., something that isn't yours. We're not here to satisfy idles curiosity about about what happens in the Avatar World. If you are working on your own fictional world and would like to address this topic, then please edit your question accordingly! Until then, VTC until you can sort it out. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 5:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg --- The issue is that "pros and cons" are fundamentally human constructs. We might anthropomorphise an animal, and say they "weigh the pros and cons", but's that's beside the point here! Pros and cons are by nature "of the structure of an internal debate or discussion" --- shall I do this, or shan't I? Mought this be better or that? Clearly off topic here! You bring up evolution. Evolution NEVER debates, never discusses. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 5:51

1 Answer 1

0
$\begingroup$

If the environment has vents that can make the air highly toxic, or there are predators or plants that can expel a highly toxic gas, then it would be reasonable for the creature to have a respiratory system that can be completely closed off for brief intervals, while the olfactory sense continues to monitor the air quality. The creature would want to sense the air without actually breathing it.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ there's also that if you have them separated, then any damage to one wont hinder the function of the other, as well as the advantage that when separate the respiratory vents can have more filtration as it wont ruin their ability to smell, meaning better resistances to airborne hazards, and at the same time gives them the option of having more sensitive olfactory vents as they dont need to be filtered as much $\endgroup$
    – zackit
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 17:24

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .