How durian got its pungent stench

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The smell of durian has been described by some to turpentine and onions, garnished with a sweaty gym sock. The green, spiky fruit is banned from public transportation and many hotels in south-east Asia because of its characteristic and pungent smell. But where does it get its scent from? A team of researchers in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong sequenced the durian genome to find out.

Just like many people in South-East Asia, Professor Bin Tean Teh loves the tropical delicacy, which is known as the “king of fruit”.

“It has a very rich, creamy taste. To us, it’s like a heavenly smell and it melts in your mouth,” said Professor Bin, a cancer researcher at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, whose team published the genome sequence on October 9 in Nature Genetics.