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Our Wondrous World: Magnetism & Dog Poop January 4, 2014

Statue by Adriano Cecioni, 1880_Dog Defecating

Statue by Adriano Cecioni, 1880: “Dog Defecating.”  (Do you believe this subject? Hope it’s public city art! Ha ha!)

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Ever wonder why on earth your dog twists and gyrates around in some area before deciding where to “go?”

New research suggests that the reason dogs take so long to figure out where to poop is that they have an internal compass that they use to search for the optimum location along a north-south axis, thus lining up their intestinal offering with the Earth’s magnetic field.

Sometimes the field gets muddied, so it takes your dog longer to find The Spot.

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EARTH-MAGNETIC-FIELD

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What difference do you suppose it makes which alignment along which animals poop? Does the magnetic pull facilitate elimination, or is the choice purely aesthetic?

Although the pooping news is new, the phenomenon is not. Other animals are known to work with magnetic north. Migratory birds come immediately to mind, and even city birds have that capacity.  Li-Qing Wu and David Dickman’s work published in Science demonstrates that pigeons’ brains contain special single cells and a substrate that “encode magnetic field direction, intensity, and polarity”, thus, it seems, conferring their famous “homing” ability.

Not only birds use magnetic guidance: fish, turtles and mammals can do it too. According to European research reported in National Geographic, deer and cattle often graze in a north-south direction that aligns with magnetic north. African mole rats have also been shown to possess a magnetic compass, as does one species of bat.

Inspired by others’ prolific output via this method, I’ve decided to re-blog the following well-written article from NPR (my first reblog) rather than researching further and writing about it myself. -erm, except for this preface, which I suppose amounts to exactly that. Oh well. –What do you think of the practice of reblogging? Is it okay?

At any rate, hope you enjoy thinking about this as I did.

–TF

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Everyone Poops, But Dogs Do It With Magnetism

by Mark Memmott
Reblog from The Two-Way: Breaking News from NPR, January 03, 2014

Dog owners have all been there when walking their canine companions.

Fido sniffs the ground and maybe turns around a few times. He searches. “No, not that patch,” he seems to say. “Maybe this one. … Or over here. … Umm, maybe not.”

Then, finally, he gets into position to … well, let’s just say leave that deposit that you’ll have to pick up.

According to researchers from the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, the pooch might be aiming to poop along a north-south axis that lines up with the Earth’s magnetic field.

In the journal Frontiers in Zoology, they report that after watching 70 dogs do their business over a two-year period (1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations), they reached the conclusion that they (the dogs) preferred to do their No. 2s “aligned along the North-south axis under calm [magnetic field] conditions.”

And when the magnetic field is in flux, “this directional behavior was abolished” — which might sometimes explain why your dog just can’t seem to settle on a place to go.

One might ask why this discovery might be important.

Well, , this is the first time a “measurable, predictable behavioral reaction” to the magnetic field’s fluctuation has been demonstrated in mammals. And that, in turn, could mean that other behavior scientists need to “revise their former experiments and observations and consider the phenomenon in their current and future experiments.” It also might mean that “biologists and physicians [should] seriously reconsider effects magnetic storms might pose on organisms.”

One also might ask who had to do most of the observations. Our hats are tipped to him or her.

We should also give a nod to Taro Gomi, author of Everyone Poops, for giving us a start to our headline.

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In the Comments, Serafin Garcia made a wonderful suggestion: “Must add this to the BSA Handbook as an alternative method to identify North.”

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Read the full Frontiers in Zoology article here.     Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field.  Vlastimil Hart, et. al. Frontiers in Zoology 2013,10:80 doi:10.1186/1742-9994-10-80.

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Find the original NPR post at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/01/03/259416979/everyone-poops-but-dogs-do-it-with-magnetism

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22 Responses to “Our Wondrous World: Magnetism & Dog Poop”

  1. Ruth Says:

    We’re on the same wavelength. Or maybe the earth’s magnetic field is aligning us. As it happens, I just blogged about red foxes using magnetic north to hunt. I can see the “adaptive value” (to use a dry evolutionary science term) in terms of hunting, but I’m mystified by the significance of aligning to poop. Maybe Gaia is constantly aligning all kinds of things and we’ve never noticed… Fascinating.

    • Tina Fields Says:

      “Maybe Gaia is constantly aligning all kinds of things and we’ve never noticed…” Yes! Earth energies are so fascinating, as are synchronicities about where people begin turning their attention (like magnetic north right now). Thanks for your response and also your lovely fox video post.

      • Ruth Says:

        Thanks T. I posted a link to your blog to amplify the alignment.
        Also, just a comment on reblogs. Frankly, it kind of feels funny to me and not in a good way. But I do want to share other great content that I come across. My solution was to create a series I call “Gleanings”, wherein I write about cool blog posts and articles that I find and share links, without actually re-posting the full content. That feels better to me. Showcasing and sharing, but not verbatim.

        • Tina Fields Says:

          Gleanings: I like that! Previously, I’ve been sharing such things on Indigenize’s Facebook page, not here on the blog itself except occasionally, and like you, with some icky feelings. But I also don’t want to keep good findings hidden from those who wisely choose to avoid Facebook. Your solution sounds like a great happy medium. O brave new world, with so many nuances to work with.

  2. I think reblogging a piece you really like is fine, especially if it fits your readership. I recently reblogged for the first and only time too, because i felt the writing said something i had been wondering about for a while really well (it was on filming beauty in nature with authenticity). And hey, who doesn’t want to know about poo and magnetic direction?!

    • Tina Fields Says:

      Thanks, Geoff. Tell me, did you simply reblog as many do, or fudge and do a lot of additional writing anyway like I realize I did? (oo, academic training dies hard.) Happy new year, btw!

      • Ah yes, the writer in me who became an academic is only just now beginning to give back space to the eco spiritual activist I started out as.
        I simply reblogged, in this case, with an introductory note about the subject matter (literally one line) – and saying how much I’d liked it.
        I doubt it will be habit forming. My guess is that it’s about balance – how much your blog is about your take on things versus how much it is meant to serve as a networking tool for like minded souls.
        Yes, may the solstice bolster your confidence in the light at the end of winter …

  3. Ryan Kennedy (Facebook link) Says:

    cool. i was just reading about that and then took my dogs for a walk. and sure enough, they both “oriented” to the n/s axis!

    • Tina Fields Says:

      Neat! What I love about this is how it gets us to pay more attention to everything, even something as mundane (and significant) as dog poop.

  4. Katherine Howard (Facebook link) Says:

    I read the article. Am still wondering why the need to align with the n/s axis?

  5. Mary Margaret McMurtry (Facebook link) Says:

    Cats do it, too, whether looking to poop or looking to sleep.

  6. Diana Tracy (facebook link) Says:

    The original article said something about canines being sensitive to electromagnetic forces, and that they realign themselves (and their internal map). Why they do it when they poop, well I suspect you gotta ask the dogs. There’s also another article about arctic foxes hunting in deep snow; their success rate when they take the time to do the alignment is about 75%, where if they just pounce, the success rate is about 10%.

  7. Ryan Kennedy (Facebook link) Says:

    i was reading in another article about this research that it seemingly is a way for dogs to reset their internal orientation mechanism. kinda of like logging in to a gps after being out of range for a while to see if you are still going in the right direction. this is only conjecture though.

  8. Diana Tracy (facebook link) Says:

    ….and when the magnetic fields are fluctuating, they can’t make up their minds (snerk!)

    • Tina Fields Says:

      Maybe we humans can blame indecisiveness on that, too! “The magnetic fields are fluctuating. I’ll get back to you next month.”

  9. Carey Stock (Facebook link) Says:

    Ah shit,it’s that simple! speaking of which. Let’s go JD!

  10. Teri Rasmusson (Facebook link) Says:

    This was also on the radio news… Interesting.

  11. Chris Kermiet (Facebook link) Says:

    I’ll take the compass on my next dog walk.

  12. Carey Stock (Facebook link) Says:

    We walk north a half a block and turn back south. Then……………………! So I guess that makes JD a “Southpaw,EH!?!

  13. Carey Stock (Facebook link) Says:

    Well after consulting with the other “dog Poop” expert, Mr. Kermiet and after closely observing our canines and we actually did for a few days,we both agree that as a rule, a dog will poop in an northernly/southernly direction. So the article was more thought provoking then first that! I observed my dog walking north on the street where we live and when we headed south,he’d dump. Except this A.M. he was heading north. Though not an absolute,and after speaking with a few other dog owners they also agree with this concept!

  14. Chas Clifton Says:

    This was pure clickbait. I walk my dogs in open country, and they point any given direction while pooping. Perhaps the “research” was done on a N-S, E-W grid of streets.


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