Why Tiny Dogs Lift Their Legs So High While Peeing

iStock
iStock

If you’ve ever crossed paths with a chihuahua, you’ll know that some of the tiniest dogs bark the biggest game. They often growl at and chase after dogs double their size, and according to a new theory, they may aim higher while peeing to make themselves seem mightier than they look.

Smaller dogs do tend to lift their legs at a higher angle to achieve a greater “pee height,” animal behavior researcher Julie Hecht writes for Scientific American. These findings, published in the Journal of Zoology, come from Betty McGuire, a dog researcher who is something of an expert on canine whizzing. McGuire, of Cornell University, studies dog urinary behavior, particularly as it relates to social and scent-marking habits.

Dog urine holds key information about the dog that left its mark, allowing dogs to communicate with each other from a distance (although anyone who has ever tried to stop a dog from sniffing every telephone pole they pass probably knows that). But what researchers didn’t know was whether dog pee height corresponded with the size of the dog.

“Small males seemed to make an extra effort to raise their leg high—some small males would almost topple over,” McGuire tells New Scientist. “So, we wondered whether small males try to exaggerate their body size by leaving high urine marks.”

For this study, McGuire and her colleagues took 50 healthy adult shelter dogs (neutered and "intact," if you must know) of different breeds out on walks and recorded them peeing—for science, of course. Researchers then used the video footage to determine the angle of a dog’s raised leg as well as the height of the urine mark. When compared to information about a dog’s height and mass, they learned that pee height does accurately reflect a dog’s size in some cases—just not when it comes to smaller dogs.

McGuire told Scientific American that smaller dogs tend to “cheat” by raising their leg higher to achieve a higher trajectory. This may be because they want to seem larger in order to avoid conflicts with more imposing dogs. Another theory posits that smaller dogs might be trying to “over mark,” or cover up another dog’s pee—a behavior that’s common in mammals.

For more conclusive results, we'll just have to wait for the next doggy urine study to leak.

[h/t Scientific American]

This Wall Chart Shows Almost 130 Species of Shark—All Drawn to Scale

Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Shark Week may be over, but who says you can’t celebrate sharp-toothed predators year-round? Pop Chart Lab has released a new wall print featuring nearly 130 species of selachimorpha, a taxonomic superorder of fish that includes all sharks.

The shark chart
Pop Chart Lab

Called “The Spectacular Survey of Sharks,” the chart lists each shark by its family classification, order, and superorder. An evolutionary timeline is also included in the top corner to provide some context for how many millions of years old some of these creatures are. The sharks are drawn to scale, from the large but friendly whale shark down to the little ninja lanternsharka species that lives in the deep ocean, glows in the dark, and wasn’t discovered until 2015.

You’ll find the popular great white, of course, as well as rare and elusive species like the megamouth, which has been spotted fewer than 100 times. This is just a sampling, though. According to World Atlas, there are more than 440 known species of shark—plus some that probably haven't been discovered yet.

The wall chart, priced at $29 for an 18” x 24” print, can be pre-ordered on Pop Chart Lab’s website. Shipping begins on August 27.

Can You Really Suck the Poison Out of a Snakebite?

iStock
iStock

Should you find yourself in a snake-infested area and unlucky enough to get bitten, what’s the best course of action? You might have been taught the old cowboy trick of applying a tourniquet and using a blade to cut the bite wound in order to suck out the poison. It certainly looks dramatic, but does it really work? According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes each year worldwide, about 81,000 to 138,000 of which are fatal. That’s a lot of deaths that could have been prevented if the remedy were really that simple.

Unfortunately the "cut and suck" method was discredited a few decades ago, when research proved it to be counterproductive. Venom spreads through the victim’s system so quickly, there’s no hope of sucking out a sufficient volume to make any difference. Cutting and sucking the wound only serves to increase the risk of infection and can cause further tissue damage. A tourniquet is also dangerous, as it cuts off the blood flow and leaves the venom concentrated in one area of the body. In worst-case scenarios, it could cost someone a limb.

Nowadays, it's recommended not to touch the wound and seek immediate medical assistance, while trying to remain calm (easier said than done). The Mayo Clinic suggests that the victim remove any tight clothing in the event they start to swell, and to avoid any caffeine or alcohol, which can increase your heart rate, and don't take any drugs or pain relievers. It's also smart to remember what the snake looks like so you can describe it once you receive the proper medical attention.

Venomous species tend to have cat-like elliptical pupils, while non-venomous snakes have round pupils. Another clue is the shape of the bite wound. Venomous snakes generally leave two deep puncture wounds, whereas non-venomous varieties tend to leave a horseshoe-shaped ring of shallow puncture marks. To be on the safe side, do a little research before you go out into the wilderness to see if there are any snake species you should be particularly cautious of in the area.

It’s also worth noting that up to 25 percent of bites from venomous snakes are actually "dry" bites, meaning they contain no venom at all. This is because snakes can control how much venom they release with each bite, so if you look too big to eat, they may well decide not to waste their precious load on you and save it for their next meal instead.

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