It's 2014 and as usual my email inbox is loaded with interesting new stories about various aspects of animal behavior. One story that caught my eye is titled "Dogs might poop in line with the Earth's magnetic field".
I have to admit that at first I was a bit skeptical about this study. However, in reading through the research paper published in the professional journal Frontiers in Zoology called "Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth's magnetic field" that is available here, I came to see that the data support the conclusions the researchers offer. Specifically, "a two-year analysis of more than 70 dogs from 37 breeds showed that our furry friends 'preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis under calm MF [magnetic field] conditions.'" When the MF was thrown out of whack, the dogs were "less picky about their crapping preferences."
The researchers fully recognize that it remains unknown why dogs orient themselves the way they do and it's not clear whether this is a conscious decision. However, their data also show that not only do the dogs prefer the North-South direction when pooping and peeing but also that they avoid an East-West direction.
There are a lot of questions that need to be addressed. I wonder, for example, if dogs are unable to assess the Earth's magnetic field how their behavior might change. There are non-invasive ways to do this. Nonetheless, this is the first demonstration of magnetic field sensitivity in dogs.
If this study is any indication, 2014 is going to be an eye-opener about the fascinating animals with whom we share our planet.
The teaser image is reproduced from here.
Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson; see also), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation (see also), and Why dogs hump and bees get depressed (see also).