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In its natural environment, dimethyl sulfide helps sea birds sniff out a meal—in this case the plankton that yield it. And the compound is achieved in such large quantities that it even forms clouds over the ocean that help cool the Earth’s climate.  Although Johnston and his team twined the gene from a bacterium that develops 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 tends that the bugs got the gene by a process akin to mating.

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