How do dogs know the route home

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A number of feel-good heartwarming films show dogs finding their route back home. The owners are overjoyed when they suddenly see their long-lost family member back in their midst. Like most aspects, things may not be as rosy as the above in the real world. A number of research studies were done as to how the animals find their way back home.

Scent and GPS

If one goes by hearsay, it is suggested that if your dog gets lost, place anything which has your scent on them at regular intervals by the wayside. The logic is that since the dogs know your smell, they can then find a way back to the home. Research shows that such a phenomenon is actually possible. Canines can follow a scent for as long as 10 miles if wind conditions are favorable. Dogs can zero on into a particular smell and then follow that specific scent for longer distances. The animals are reliant on overlapping familiar scents. This does not mean leaving a cloth with your scent on it by the roadside is a guarantee of your dog will come back. Scent trials are temporary. Yes, a few dogs find their way back home, but most get lost along the way.

Many animals use the earth’s magnetism as their personal GPS. Small biological compasses have been found in a number of animals. Tiny magnetic field sensors are found in fruit flies. Identical protein structures have been discovered in the retinal cells of pigeons’ eyes. They are also found in butterfly, whale, and rat cells. Humans also have them in trace amounts.

Magnetic direction and the celestial bodies for migration

A few studies have revealed that a number of animals have ears containing iron and this could help them to navigate towards the target’s magnetic direction. The pigeon is the best example of this particular phenomena. It was discovered that the birds utilized low-frequency sound waves for navigation. This was effective for longer flying distances equating thousands of miles. This particular theory also explains why the pigeons sometimes get lost in case of interruptions like jets or high winds.

Scientists believe seabirds use the stars and the sun as a compass and they get lost if the sky gets overcast. A few animals like voles, deer, and cattle probably use magnetism like birds to find a way home. They probably use mental maps as well. The science of animal navigation remains a mystery. Many scientists believe that evolution provided animals to find multiple methods to sense the magnetic fields. It is clear that the science in such a case continues to be wide open for investigation. It is clear that animals navigate longer distances but the jury continues to be out on how they do it.

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