Dogs Align With Earth’s Magnetic Field When Pooping, But Scientists Have No Idea Why

By Ajit jha on January 3, 2014 10:49 AM EST

Dog squatting in a park.
Strangely, dogs line up with the Earth's magnetic fields whenever they do their business. (Photo: Shutterstock)

You probably know about the extraordinary ability that dogs have to sniff out almost anything from hidden drugs in body cavities to drowned, buried, and missing persons to the presence of melanoma cancer. Their extraordinary sniffing is powered by over 200 million scent receptors in their nose. In comparison, we meek humans have just 5 million. Now, scientists at the University of Life Sciences in Prague have discovered yet another extraordinary sensing ability in dogs: dogs are sensitive to Earth's magnetism.  

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Strangely, when dogs squat to poop, they spontaneously align their body axis with respect to the Earth's magnetic field, the researchers found. However, they do not know yet know why this habit is useful to them or what it means. In a research paper published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, scientists claim "dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm MF conditions." However, when magnetic field (MF) conditions were unstable, their directional behavior was absent. If, for example, there was a solar flare, and the Earth's magnetic field became unstable, dogs would get confused - or at least, would start to poop in random directions.

In their search for magnetic alignments in dogs, the scientists made 1,893 observations of 70 dogs of 37 breeds during defecation and measured the direction of their body axis. They also made 5,582 observations of dogs while they urinated. The study took place over a two-year period and the data were sorted according to the prevalent geomagnetic conditions during the sampling period.

Using this data, the scientists were able to prove magnetic sensitivity in dogs. In addition, they could unambiguously prove a measurable and predictable behavioral reaction upon natural magnetic field fluctuations in mammals. They study also highlighted that dogs are highly sensitive to small changes in polarity rather than intensity of magnetic field. In other words, the study proves that polarity is biologically meaningful. According to the researchers, the study is important because it could, ideally, open up new horizons in magnetoreception research.

Photo above courtesy of Shutterstock.

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