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Why Do We Have Two Nostrils? — ‘The Why’

Welcome to the newest edition of The Why.Why do we have two nostrils?” Good question. (OK, it’s a little odd but again it beats answering those questions about assorted, odd intimate acts. Seriously? We thought a “Dutch Treat” was just one of those cheap cigars that stink up a room, mmmkay?)


Image: istock

Why do we have two nostrils? So kids with nothing better to p*ss away mom and dad’s money on have double the piercing possibilities?

Nah.  It’s a developmental thing.  It’s because you don’t use them both at the same time.

Think that answer smells fishy? That’s why we have guest speakers . . . one for each nostril.

Michael Wareing consultant ENT surgeon and contributor to The Guardian confirms that “partly it’s a developmental thing” and notes that “we have a pair of every feature that is not mid-line in the body – so, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils. (Yes, we have only one mouth, but that, too, follows the same structure). This happens because early on, when the human body develops, it forms almost from a flat plate that folds itself in two.”


Image: YouTube

He adds: “Another reason we have two nostrils is because of something called the ‘nasal cycle’. While we don’t consciously notice it, we breathe predominantly through one nostril at a time, and the other side becomes a bit congested and rests. This automatically changes over about four to six hours, so then the other side relaxes.”

Our other guest speaker, Esther Inglis-Arkell contributor to io9, reports that a research team from Stanford University notes that ‘the nose splits a single passage from the lungs into two tubes right next to each other.” This is because “our sense of smell just isn’t good enough that the split in the passages helps us orient ourselves.”


Image: Wikipedia

She adds that they discovered that at any given moment one nostril is “temporarily better at detecting different smells. Your smell perception changes depending on what nostril you’re sniffing through.”

Inglis-Arkell also confirms that at any moment, “there is a dominant nostril. The body sucks more air, more quickly, in through one nostril than it does the other. This dominance will actually switch back and forth during the day.”

She concludes: “Two nostrils are better than one, because the different rates of flow might let your brain separate out complicated scents and appreciate them all. You don’t just smell, you smell a full chemical analysis.”

It’s developmental. It’s about how we breathe and how we smell.

Why do we have two nostrils? Now you know.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

American Live Wire . . . Listen and be heard.



About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.