Good news for Cosmo Kramer and his plans for a cologne that smells like the beach--scientists have cloned the gene responsible for that special beach scent.
And now for another episode of Seinfeld science. On Monday we talked about cooler sports uniforms, one of George Costanza’s crusades. Well, now it’s Kramer’s idea for a cologne that would make you smell like the beach. Scientists from the University of East Anglia have just cloned the gene responsible for that briny, fishy scent we associate with the seaside. Andrew Johnston and his colleagues harvested some bacteria from a coastal salt marsh. And they isolated a gene that makes dimethyl sulfide, a gas whose essence is pure eu d’ ocean.
In its natural environment, dimethyl sulfide helps sea birds sniff out a meal—in this case the plankton that produce it. And the compound is generated in such large quantities that it even forms clouds over the ocean that help cool the Earth’s climate. Although Johnston and his team cloned the gene from a bacterium that thrives in the sea, they also found it in some unexpected places, including microbes that live in the roots of plants. Because these species are so different, he suspects that the bugs got the gene by a process akin to mating. Now, why they would want it is anybody’s guess. Maybe, like Kramer, they just like the smell.