Why do our fingers have a musty, “metallic” odor after handling coins? It turns out we?re not really smelling the coins, we’re smelling a kind of body odor. And there’s a reason we can smell it: it helped our hunter ancestors track down their wounded prey during hunting forays.

Ker Than writes in LiveScience.com that the smell is created by the breakdown of oils in the skin after touching objects that contain iron. He quotes German researcher Dietmar Glindemann as saying, “That we are smelling the metal itself is actually an illusion? That humans can ‘smell’ iron can be interpreted as a sense for the smell of blood.”

When we touch objects made of iron, perspiration from our skin causes the iron atoms to gain two electrons, which is what creates the smell. Because blood contains iron, rubbing blood over our skin produces a similar metallic smell.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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