Decomposing human bodies have a unique smell - one that distinguishes them from other rotting animals, according to new research.
Specifically, human corpses emit a unique five-chemical cocktail - comprised of 3-methylbutyl pentanoate, 3-methylbutyl 3-methylbutyrate, 3-methylbutyl 2-methylbutyrate, butyl pentanoate and propyl hexanoate - that separates them from the rest of the animal kingdom.
These five chemicals are part of a group of molecules called esters, which are also responsible for the strong, sharp smells emitted by fruits like pineapples and raspberries, reports The Guardian.
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The human smell of death, in other words, is a little bit fruity.
In collecting gases off of six humans and 26 different animals, researchers identified 452 distinct chemical compounds. Eight of those were specific to humans and pigs, and the five esters were unique to humans.
The esters are produced by degrading muscles, carbohydrates and fat tissues.
Pigs and humans share biological similarities, from growing similar hair to having the same gut flora. For that reason, pigs have been used in most previous decomposition studies. The new research is the first to look at how the two similar animals decompose in the same conditions.
The finding might seem ghoulishly superfluous, but the information has value.
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"The mixture of (these) compounds might be used in the future to more specifically train cadaver dogs," analytical chemist Eva Cuypers told Science.
It may also be useful in assisting party planning for the living: Increasingly elaborate Halloween parties have started to incorporate the smell of death as part of the Halloween experience.
With advancements in the science of the smell of death, then, holiday terror can come in the form of the faint hint of pineapple - as well as a toothless man in an orange jumpsuit accosting you from behind a hay bale.