Have you ever noticed how many dogs seem to do a couple of circles, clearly on some sort of mission, before settling on a spot to squat?
Scientists think they may have found a reason: dogs prefer to align their bodies with Earth's magnetic field when they have to go.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Published in the Frontiers of Zoology, the observations made by Czech and German researchers believe this is the first time a magnetic sensitivity for dogs has been proven. Not only that, but they said it showed how small changes in a magnetic field poles could be "biologically meaningful." The research could show how Earth's magnetic field has an impact on behavior other than navigation.
The researchers studied 70 unleashed dogs comprised of 37 different breeds for two years, monitoring their direction with respect to Earth's north-south axis when they defecated and urinated. During times when Earth's magnetic field was calm, which is only about 20 percent of daylight hours, the dogs would favor alignment.
"Since the MF is calm in only about 20 percent of the daylight period, our findings might provide an explanation why many magnetoreception experiments were hardly replicable and why directional values of records in diverse observations are frequently compromised by scatter," the researchers said.
The researchers wrote that they are not sure what purpose dogs aligning themselves when going to the bathroom might serve, if any. They're also not sure if dogs do it consciously, as if they sensed the magnetic field and chose to orient themselves based on it, or unconsciously because it was more comfortable.
Based on analysis of their raw data though, the scientists believe it shows "that dogs not only prefer N-S direction, but at the same time they also avoid E-W direction."
A sensitivity to Earth's magnetic field is not unique to dogs. Other animals, including birds and fish, experience it as well.
Read the full study for more.
Featured image via Shutterstock.