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Chemoreception, process by which organisms respond to chemical stimuli in their environments that depends primarily on the senses of taste and smell. Chemoreception relies on chemicals that act as signals to regulate cell function, without the chemical necessarily being taken into the cell for metabolic purposes. While many chemicals, such as hormones and neurotransmitters, occur within organisms and serve to regulate specific physiological activities, chemicals in the external environment are also perceived by and elicit responses from whole organisms. All animals and microorganisms such as bacteria exhibit this latter type of chemoreception, but the two commonly recognized chemosensory systems are the senses of taste, or gustation, and smell, or olfaction.
The following article discusses the role of taste and smell and the interaction of these two sensory systems in chemoreception. For basic information about the different senses used by animals, see sensory reception. For information on specific senses, see also photoreception, thermoreception, and mechanoreception.