Dogs can sense weak thermal radiation
The dog rhinarium (naked and often moist skin on the nose-tip) is prominent and richly innervated, suggesting a sensory function. Compared to nose-tips of herbivorous artio- and perissodactyla, carnivoran rhinaria are considerably colder. We hypothesized that this coldness makes the dog rhinarium particularly sensitive to radiating heat. We trained three dogs to distinguish between two distant objects based on radiating heat; the neutral object was about ambient temperature, the warm object was about the same surface temperature as a furry mammal. In addition, we employed functional magnetic resonance imaging on 13 awake dogs, comparing the responses to heat stimuli of about the same temperatures as in the behavioural experiment. The warm stimulus elicited increased neural response in the left somatosensory association cortex. Our results demonstrate a hitherto undiscovered sensory modality in a carnivoran species.