The Scope, the Official STEMscopes Blog

Compass Pooping

Posted by Science Explored on February 03, 2014

Many people have claimed to have a sixth sense, but new research from Frontiers in Zoology indicates that dogs may have an additional sense beyond the standard smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing.  Magnetoreception refers to the ability to sense variations in the Earth’s natural magnetic field.  Several mammals, including cattle, roe deer, red deer, and hunting red foxes, have frequently been shown to be mangnetosensitive.  The height of their magnetosensitivity is best observed during defecation.  Yes, dogs react to the Earth’s magnetic field, most, while pooping.  The question, now, is, how reliable are dogs as a compass?

Though the study involving hundreds of observations across dozens of dogs of varying breed and size, scientists are not sure as to why canines align themselves in a north-south (the head pointing either north or south) direction.  However, there is one theory as to why our furry friends might do this.  Scientists suggest that dogs align themselves while defecating to help “calibrate” their mental maps. As dogs relieve themselves, scientists believe they are using the visual landscape to overlay their perception of north, south, east, and west. Similar to when hikers periodically pause to check maps, smart phone compasses, and confer with one another about the right path, dogs stop, poop, and align themselves to the Earth’s magnetic field. This ability may have been handed down from dogs’ ancestors, wolves, who have massive territories (150-200 square kilometers).  Wolves possess excellent navigational skills due to visual references, scent markers, and (probably) an internal compass similar to dogs’.

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Topics: dogs, Science Explored, magnetosensitivity

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