What Does Death Smell Like?

Hint: it’s not what you'd think

The idea of rotting flesh is unappealing to say the least, but new research shows the smell of death is actually a bit fruity.

Belgian scientists have discovered a cocktail of five chemical compounds that are only given off by human flesh – not animal flesh.

These compounds, known as esters, are extremely pungent, giving off odours of apples, pineapples, raspberries and blackberries.

The team put samples from six humans and 26 animals into jars and allowed them to decompose over six months.

After sampling the gases given off by the rotting flesh, scientists found the human samples gave off five esters that were unique to humans.

The implications here are huge – if it’s possible to differentiate human remains from animal remains by smell, cadaver dogs can be better trained by police and rescue teams to search for dead bodies.

Scientists could also develop portable devices to help authorities search for dead bodies in large areas.

The study’s lead author, Elien Rosier from the University of Leuven, says, “Esters are described to be degradation products of muscles, fat tissue and carbohydrates,' explained the team.”

“In this study, it was already possible to find compounds specific for human and pigs. Further research in the field with full bodies has to corroborate these results and search for one or more human specific markers.”

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