January 3, 2014
Dogs Align With Earth’s Magnetic Field When Relieving Themselves
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Ever wonder why your dog turns in circles before relieving himself? A new study published Friday in the journal Frontiers in Zoology may hold the answer.
The researchers discovered that dogs of a variety of breeds align their bodies with the Earth’s magnetic field before squatting, and even the smallest fluctuations in the magnetic field will affect the dogs’ position.
The researchers at Czech University of Life Sciences observed 1,893 dog-defecations from 70 dogs of 37 different breeds over a two-year period, and found the pooches preferred to excrete when their body was aligned along the Earth’s north-south axis under stable magnetic field conditions.
When the Earth’s magnetic field is not calm but rather fluctuating, which occurs about 80 percent of the time, this directional conduct vanishes and the dogs will go anyway they please, the researchers said.
"Alignment during excreting was apparent under conditions of quiet magnet field, irrespective of the time of day or month,” the study’s authors wrote in their report.
The Earth’s magnetic field can become unstable during solar flares, for example, and when this happened the dogs' positions were more random, the study found.
The scientists reached their conclusion by observing that in the morning, dogs tended to position their bodies towards the west when relieving themselves, but would shift to an easterly direction in the afternoon, which correlated with fluctuations in the Earth’s axis.
By studying a variety of different breeds they were able to rule out the possibility that squatting positions were linked to certain species. They also ruled out that the time of day, and therefore the position of the sun, played a role because the dogs were observed over a number of seasons with varying sun positions.
Furthermore, the data was gathered outside in open fields, so the dogs wouldn't be influenced by routines established during regular walks, for example.
The researchers acknowledge that they don't yet understand why the dogs behave this way, but note that natural fluctuations of the Earth’s magnetic field have been found to disturb the orientation of birds, bees and whales.
“In this study, we provide the first clear and simply measurable evidence for influence of geomagnetic field variations on mammal behavior. Furthermore, it is the first demonstration of the effect of the shift of declination, which has to our knowledge never been investigated before,” the researchers said according to the Daily Mail.
“We demonstrate, for the first time (a) magnetic sensitivity in dogs, (b) a measurable, predictable behavioral reaction upon natural magnetic field (MF) fluctuation in a mammal, and (c) high sensitivity to small changes in polarity, rather than in intensity, of the MF.”
The researchers said the findings open new horizons in magnetoreception research.
“Behavioral scientists need to revise their former experiments and observations and consider the phenomenon in their current and future experiments,” read the report.
“The phenomenon challenges biophysicists to formulate testable hypotheses for mechanisms responsible for magnetoreception of inconsistencies of the direction of the MF direction. Finally, it forces biologists and physicians to seriously reconsider effects magnetic storms might pose on organisms.”