May 18, 2024

Not just big, but impressive: a dog’s nose leaves a fine trail

Quelle: Getty Images/Tetra Images RF/Justin Padgett

It’s a breed issue, since breed is said to determine which dogs have a gifted nose. American researchers are now proposing a surprising theory about bloodhounds and more. Animal genes are important for tracking, but not for smell.

DA group led by William Murphy at Texas A&M University hypothesizes that known differences between races in odor recognition tasks stem from differences in inbred behavior, such as motivation or training ability. This study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Julian Breuer, a German dog researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology (MPI) in Jena, thinks this result is plausible.

It’s no surprise that dogs have an excellent sense of smell. This is due to the presence of a large number of olfactory cells in the nasal mucosa. Because when they smell, air floods all over their mouths. And last but not least is the processing of smells in the brain. It is said that dogs can smell about 1,000 times more closely than humans.

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+honorarpflichtig+++ A young beagle waiting for food... Some parts are blurry so I focus on the eyes and the actual dog food.

People use dogs and other animals to use their special abilities to search for people, drugs, and explosives, detect diseases, and hunt. Beagles, bloodhounds, and German wirehaired pointers are thought to have particularly good senses of smell. Greyhounds, border collies, and pugs are thought to be particularly vulnerable to this.

breton spaniel

Bretons have a sense of smell: small hunting dogs can smell ducks from a distance

Query: Photo Alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library/John Daniels/

As a general rule, it’s difficult to test a dog’s olfactory abilities, says Julian Breuer. “We know very little about the dog’s sense of smell,” said Breuer, head of the Canine Research Research Group at the Jena Max Planck Institute, who himself studies the dog’s sense of smell. For example, it’s unclear what dogs actually recognize chemically when they follow a trail.

It’s also difficult to use brain scans to see what happens in the brain during smelling, she says. The animal then became stressed and began panting. But this is a problem. “Anatomists generally agree that it is impossible to sniff and pant at the same time.” Although the number of olfactory cells in a dog can be measured, reliable information about a dog’s olfactory abilities cannot be obtained. not.

Experiments with genetic material and skulls

Murphy’s group is now choosing a different approach. They looked at the genomes of 30 different dog breeds, looking specifically for genes for so-called olfactory receptors. They found that dogs have fewer functional genes in this region compared to wolves and coyotes.

However, comparisons between dogs did not reveal any underlying patterns that could explain the special olfactory abilities of sniffer dogs. When we looked at so-called gene expression, how strongly these genes are actually read and proteins are made based on them, we didn’t see any corresponding differences.

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In recent years, demand for goat cheese and milk has been particularly high in Germany.

Murphy’s researchers also took measurements of the so-called lamina cribrosa in 103 skulls. This is part of the ethmoid bone, the bone at the end of the nasal cavity. The cribriform plate contains nerves that transmit olfactory information to the brain. The larger this structure is compared to the mammal’s body size, the better its sense of smell.

However, the researchers also found that there were no structural differences in the lamina cribrosa between dog breeds known for their excellent sense of smell and other dogs. “Our results refute breeders’ claims that olfactory traits were selected and controlled through strict reproductive control of olfactory breeds,” the study authors wrote.

K-9 search dog Hervé Weser in action

Search dog is tracking 6-year-old Ariane from Elm

Source: Picture Alliance/DPA/Daniel Bockwoldt

What do other experts say? But Jeffrey Schoenebeck, a canine geneticist at the University of Edinburgh, is not entirely convinced, writing in the journal Science. “I think there are other possibilities here,” he said. Further investigation is required.

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“This result doesn’t surprise me,” says Breuer, the canine researcher. After all, the age of most dog breeds does not exceed 200 years. Despite breeding, they do not necessarily develop a better sense of smell during this relatively short period of time. Breuer believes that tracking dogs such as bloodhounds were not bred for special nasal abilities, but rather to be motivated by their sense of smell. Differences in smelling ability may simply be due to how well a particular breed smells and how often it puts its nose to the ground.

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