Statue by Adriano Cecioni, 1880: “Dog Defecating.” (Do you believe this subject? Hope it’s public city art! Ha ha!)
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.
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.
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.
In the Comments, Serafin Garcia made a wonderful suggestion: “Must add this to the BSA Handbook as an alternative method to identify North.”
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.
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