Researchers looking into why dogs have wet noses have found this distinctive attribute helps canines sense heat from a distance.
Who hasn't “enjoyed” the unique experience of a dog bumping your exposed skin with its moist and chilly nose? Once the initial shock and shiver has worn off, you may have wondered what purpose this serves for our canid companions, other than to give us a fleeting case of the goosebumps.
Lucky for you and us, a combined team of researchers from Lund University in Sweden and Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary set out to solve the mystery of wet-nosed woofers so we don't have to. Their conclusions – published in the February 28th edition of the journal Scientific Reports – were eyebrow-raising (one might even say, nostril-flaring) to say the least!
The researchers focused on the “rhinarium” - an area around the nostrils that is smooth and dry in most mammals but moist, cool, and loaded with nerve endings in canines such as dogs and wolves. When dogs placed inside MRI machines were presented with warmed objects, significant activity was noted in a region of the animals associated with processing olfactory signals... aka, their “smell centers”.
Other experiments involved training dogs to retrieve slightly-heated objects from distances of more than 1.6 meters (roughly 5.25 feet). The subjects were easily able to determine the heated object from another otherwise identical one. Experiments are continuing in an effort to better understand how canines developed this previously unknown ability, and how it benefits both them and their wild wolf ancestors. (via PhysOrg, images via Scientific Reports and flattop341)