What a good thing that Gail’s friend the Oil Man has had his work visa for Yemen revoked.
Why so, I hear you ask?
Well had he not been kicking his heels in Dubai, I doubt he would have had time to email Gail about the latest exciting breakthrough in canine research*. To my great shame, both she and I had missed reading about this study, which purports to show that when us pups poo we align ourselves with the earth’s magnetic field.
Gosh I am so impressed that a team of dedicated scientists would collect data from over 7000 individual canine defecation and urination 'events’ to come up with this earth shattering discovery. I am proud to tell you that fox terriers were amongst the 37 breeds participating in such important work. And my esteemed godmother Tootsie will be interested to know that fully a quarter of the dogs involved were dachshunds – possibly (I am speculating here) due to the ease of measuring the orientation of such an elongate breed.
Now I am not going to bore you with the finer details of the research, but I thought you might like at least to see an image illustrating the measurement principle.
A paragraph from the paper’s abstract is also worth quoting:
“Magnetic alignment is a suitable paradigm to scan for the occurrence of magnetosensitivity across animal taxa with the heuristic potential to contribute to the understanding of the mechanism of magnetoreception and identify further functions of magnetosensation apart from navigation”.
All clear now?
Oh and you should definitely know that all the ‘events’ were recorded when the participants were off leash, to ensure unbiased data.
More good news is that we can look forward to a follow-up paper, given these words - another direct quote from the original publication - about the male dog urination: “Indications of different directional tendencies depending on which leg (left or right) is lifted are currently under study”.
I am sorry to report that Gail does not agree with me about the significance of this fascinating research and has poo-poo’d my idea that dog owners could soon be throwing away their satnavs. And when I suggested we could contribute new data if she carried a compass and notebook on future walks she just gave me a ‘look’ and said people would rightly question her sanity.
In fact, Gail went so far as to say she suspects the study’s authors Hart et al. of a blatant attempt to win an award at the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.
It is tough, sometimes, for even the most bouncy of Boffins to soldier on in the face of such cynicism. But fear not, it will take more than a sceptical owner to deter me from my mission to educate and enlighten my readers about the wonderful world of science!
*Hart et al., Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:80 http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/10/1/80