nose, olfactory and respiratory organ, located between the eyes. The external nose, composed of bone and cartilage, is the most prominent feature of the face in humans. The internal nose is a hollow structure above the roof of the mouth, divided by the septum into two nasal cavities that extend from the nostrils to the pharynx. The mucous membrane that lines the nasal cavities is covered with fine hairs known as cilia that help to filter dust and impurities from the air before it reaches the lungs; the air is also moistened as it passes over the sticky nasal membrane. In the human nose, there are three horizontal folds on the walls of the nasal cavities, called the conchae: other mammals may have more conchae. The uppermost concha is densely supplied with capillaries that warm the air passing over them to near body temperature. High in the nasal cavity is a small tract of mucous membrane containing the nerve cell endings of the olfactory nerve, which impart the sense of smell. Therefore, inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes, which commonly accompanies colds and other infections, not only obstructs breathing but also impairs the sense of smell.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.