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Mammalian Rhinarium Group

We have discovered that dogs can sense body heat radiation with their naked and cold nose-tips (rhinaria). Sensitivity is so high that a sizeable prey animal can be detected from tens of meters distance. This ability of dogs had been overlooked since humans and dogs started to keep company at least 15,000 years ago.

The evidence comes from behavior and brain activity. In Lund, dogs chose correctly between a neutral surface at ambient temperature and a stimulus only 10-12 ⁰C warmer. The distance was 1.6 m and the current record is a stimulus size of only 50 mm in diameter. Other senses such as olfaction, hearing, and vision could not be used to solve the task. In Budapest, brain activity in dogs was determined by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The somatosensory cortex became active upon stimulation with equivalent thermal radiation.

Comparative work has shown that all land-living carnivorans (species in the mammalian order of Carnivora) have cold rhinaria and therefore they may have similar abilities. Other mammals have warmer rhinaria and seem to use them for other purposes.

Nose diversity

Noses

Thermal photos of noses

Thermal images of mammalian noses, in the same order of species as above, but not necessarily of the same individuals.

Row 1: dog, horse, sheep, pig, cat, goat
Row 2: rhesus monkey, rat, kinkajou, rabbit, cow, degu
Row 3: zebu, ring-tailed lemur, meerkat, harbor seal, moose, raccoon dog
Row 4: polecat, arctic fox, lynx, raccoon, common eland, human

The imaged lynx was resting (warm rhinarium).

Page Manager:

Contact information

Ronald Kröger
Professor
Functional zoology

Telephone: +46 46-222 05 96
E-mail: Ronald [dot] Kroger [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Public Events

Many people can relate to the popular pets and/or important working animals in our studies. The work is met by great interest and we are happy to reach out to a large audience of professionals, students and laymen.

Thermal photo of people

2020-03 Until further notice, all public events are cancelled because of COVID-19.