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The Chemistry of Skunk Spray

Skunks are infamous for their awful-smelling odor, but they don’t always smell that way. Their spray, a liquid full of stinky chemicals from their anal scent glands, is used strategically to chase away predators. In this episode of Gross Science, Anna Rothschild explains the chemical components (specifically thiol compounds) that are responsible for the stink. A bit more from wikipedia:

Skunks are reluctant to use this weapon, as they carry just enough of the chemical for five or six uses – about 15 cc – and require some ten days to produce another supply. Their bold black and white coloration makes their appearance memorable. It is to a skunk’s advantage to warn possible predators off without expending scent: black and white aposematic warning coloration aside, threatened skunks will go through an elaborate routine of hisses, foot-stamping, and tail-high deimatic or threat postures before resorting to spraying.

And if you or your pet ever gets sprayed, The Humane Society “recommends using a mixture of dilute hydrogen peroxide (3%), baking soda, and dishwashing liquid.” Related links via Gross Science: Recipe for De-Skunking Spray and Chemicals in Striped Skunk Spray.

Next: Slime Cannon Attack – How Velvet Worm slime jets work, more strong odors, and more videos from Gross Science.

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