May 16, 2022

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The science behind your dog's ability to find you 12 years after being lost

The science behind your dog’s ability to find you 12 years after being lost

One day in 2010, Michelle, a woman from Lafayette, California, discovered to her dismay that her dog was her dog. zoe Disappeared on the way back from shopping. After tireless efforts to find her, weeks passed and he finally gave up. Michelle thought Zoe would definitely die. However, after being lost for twelve years, Zoe met again With his owner in California, just a few weeks ago. The moment that was broadcast Emotional video on Facebook.

The dog was found, apparently, about a hundred kilometers from the place where it disappeared in 2010 His family home in Lafayette.

It is not the only story of this kind that we can find in the media. A few months ago, the story of Peru, a four-year-old sheepdog I managed to find it The way back from Cumbria, a region in northern England, to his former home on the Welsh coast. But I traveled like this Almost 400 km Within two weeks. His microchip served as proof that it was the same canister and that the flight was made.

Biological GPS

There are more than five hundred identified dog breeds in the world, making it the most diverse mammal on our planet. We tend to think that dogs are innocent and easy to deceive, unlike cats who seem more intelligent and Machiavellian. However, according to recent study And given the number of neurons, it seems that dogs are more intelligent than cats. By this number, in fact, dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons, and cats have about 250 million (humans 16 billion).

In addition to their intelligence, dogs are also distinguished by their extraordinary ability to spatial orientation, as if they had been integrated into the brain. Kind of biological GPS. According to Catherine Lohmann, a biologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, It seems possible Thanks to its sensitivity to the Earth’s magnetic field.

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It’s something we’ve been suspicious of since 2013 when study Conducted by Heinek Borda, of the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, and published in the journal Frontiers in zoologymade at least a unique finding: During the excretion of urine and litter, dogs tend to turn north and south because alignment appears to help dogs locate relative to other points.

To reach this conclusion, body axis orientation was measured in 70 dogs of 37 breeds during defecation (1893 notes) and Peeing (5582 views) over two years. After complete sampling, classify the data according to the geomagnetic conditions that prevailed during the respective sampling periods.

looking puppy

(Alexandrina Andreeva/Unsplash)

At the moment, the reason for this compatibility remains a mystery. It is not even known if they actively do this or if it is a botanical function (eg breathing or digestion). But static alignment is not the same as mobility. To find out how dogs move, a number of other studies have been done, including one 27 dogs released On several hundred trips over 3 years all with GPS collars and action cameras. The dogs roamed freely in the forest areas.

Upon returning to the owner (back home), the dogs either followed their own path of departure (“sniffer”) or used a new one (“scan”). The entry path during exploration primarily began with a short path (about 20 m) along the north-south geomagnetic axis, regardless of the actual direction of the house. That is, the dogs were located in the north first and then moved a little towards it. performance like “Compass racingSignificantly increased search efficiency.

According to the study authors, this race will be necessary for the dog’s mental map to register with the magnetic compass and determine the animal’s path.

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However, this type of experiment is difficult because it is difficult to encourage the animal to trust only one sense, and isolate the rest, to prove that the magnetic sense is one hundred percent efficient. Future experiments should include some system perturbing the magnetic system in a group of dogs to see how inefficient they are.

else recent study, published in Scientific Reports, suggests that the eyes are involved in this magnetic orientation. Apparently, a light-sensitive molecule has been discovered in some mammals, cryptochromes, class of photoreceptors Blue light is from plants and animals and it will have an important role in regulating circadian rhythms. The researchers looked for equivalents of this molecule in 90 different species, and found it in many carnivores, such as dogs, foxes, wolves and bears, but not in cats such as cats, tigers and lions.

Other GPS-equipped animals

Many creatures are amazingly able to orient themselves around the world, from homing pigeons to those who perform them seasonal migrations Even a humpback whale. In addition to the “magnetic compass”, birds also seem to benefit from it Solar and stellar “compasses” for orientation.

In the meantime, use desert ants olfactory clues s smell of clouds scattered by the wind. This way they can go to food sources and return to their nests.
We humans also have a special ability to orient ourselvesAs Caspar Henderson explains in his book, Wonder Map:

In humans, the pineal gland produces melatonin, which modulates circadian rhythms. In fact, it is atrophic photoreceptors. In our distant evolutionary ancestors, this gland was attached to a light-sensitive organ called the parietal eye. The leatherback sea turtle, which we shared an ancestor with hundreds of millions of years ago, has a “louver” in its skull: a very thin bony surface that allows light to strike directly into its pineal gland. This makes it possible for the turtle’s brain to be aware of its diurnal range, which helps it orient itself.

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Even microscopic organisms such as bacteria are able to orient themselves. To survive, they have ways of moving towards food, for example, and moving away from those that are dangerous, such as excessive heat, acidity, or alkalinity. Some have specialized means of propulsion, such as microscopic threads called flagella. Others, magnetic bacteria, also contain small magnetic particles that, when docked at the ends, They act like microscopic compass needlesAs David Barry explains in his book, The best trips:

These “needles” force bacteria to align with Earth’s magnetic field, which helps them find their way into the oxygen-poor water and sediment layers in which they live. The water in bacteria in the northern hemisphere has the opposite polarity to that in the southern hemisphere. A simple example of the power of natural selection.

Sometimes, yes, the press exaggerates individual stories.Like dogs that seem to have traveled long distances. This is the exception, not the rule. Most dogs get lost and can’t find their way home, let alone cover long distances. We are still trying to determine the exact science behind whether or not they do this.

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This will not only allow us to understand how to guide them a little better, but also delve into what other items Influencing their mass movements or their displacement. Do experiments like This is a wonderful network From 100,000 animals linked by trackers and observed from space, they can explain animal behavior and help predict volcanic eruptions, severe weather and emerging diseases.

picture: Track Fu / Unsplash