Since this blog is known for its pet peeve (pun intended) regarding dogs and poo, I of course must post this recent scientific discovery: under calm magnetic field conditions, dogs tend to align their bodies along the north/south magnetic axis while taking a crap.
What really horrifies me is that this research involved supposedly sane, well-educated individuals — twelve of them! — closely observing 1,893 poops and 5,582 pees. You could not pay me to do this. But I would have loved to have seen the grant proposal for this study.
Of much greater interest, and no horror at all, is a study of foxes and their ability to catch mice that can’t be seen. Now this study I’d have happily joined:
[Jaroslav] Červený spent over two years studying wild red foxes in the Czech Republic, with the help of a 23-strong team of wildlife biologists and experienced hunters. The team recorded almost 600 mousing jumps, performed by 84 foxes at a wide variety of locations and times.
And what did this team learn from watching all of those jumps? That the foxes have a far greater chance of success if they orient themselves about 20 degrees off magnetic north:
If they pounced to the north-east, they killed on 73% of their attacks; if they jumped in the opposite direction, the success rate stayed at 60%. In all other directions, only 18% of their pounces were successful.
Time of day, season, cloud cover, wind direction — none of these made a difference. The most obvious remaining factor is magnetic field lines.
Červený suggests that a red fox could use the Earth’s magnetic field as a “rangefinder”, to estimate the distance to its prey and make a more accurate pounce. This targeting system works because the Earth’s magnetic field tilts downward in the northern hemisphere, at an angle of 60-70 degrees below the horizontal. As the fox creeps forward, it listens for the sound of a mouse. It’s searching for that sweet spot where the angle of the sound hitting its ears matches the slope of the Earth’s magnetic field. At that spot, the fox knows that it’s a fixed distance away from its prey, and it knows exactly how far to jump to land upon it.
So. Cool. And let’s just say it: way cooler than lining up for a crap.