Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Anatomically, a nose is a protuberance in vertebrates that houses the nostrils, or nares, which admit and expel air for respiration. In most mammals, it also houses the nosehairs, which catch airborne particles and prevent them from reaching the lungs. Within and behind the nose is the olfactory mucosa and the sinuses. Behind the nasal cavity, air next passes through the pharynx, shared with the digestive system, and then into the rest of the respiratory system. In humans, the nose is located centrally on the face; on most other mammals, it is on the upper tip of the snout. Nose as a term may be used to designate the leading end of anything, such as an airplane.
As an interface between the body and the external world, the nose and associated structures frequently perform additional functions concerned with conditioning entering air (for instance, by warming and/or humidifying it) and by reclaiming moisture from the air before it is exhaled (as occurs most efficiently in camels).
In most mammals, the nose is the primary organ for smelling. As the animal sniffs, the air flows through the nose and over structures called turbinates in the nasal cavity. The turbulence caused by this disruption slows the air and directs it toward the olfactory epithelium. At the surface of the olfactory epithelium, odor molecules carried by the air contact olfactory receptor neurons which transduce the features of the molecule into electrical impulses in the brain.
In cetaceans, the nose has been reduced to the nostrils, which have migrated to the top of the head, producing a more streamlined body shape and the ability to breathe while mostly submerged. Conversely, the elephant's nose has become elaborated into a long, muscular, manipulative organ called the trunk.
Due to the special nature of the blood supply to the human nose and surrounding area, it is possible for retrograde infections from the nasal area to spread to the brain. For this reason, the area from the corners of the mouth to the bridge of the nose, including the nose and maxilla, is known to doctors as the danger triangle of the face.
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