A dog does not need a tail for balance. It has other features

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of researchers, led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, has shown in experiments and digital models that, contrary to previous studies, dogs do not use their tails to stabilize movement.

Dogs use their tails primarily for signaling, meaning the tail is a means of communication.

Apparently, the fact is that dogs do not fly like birds, and do not perform long jumps like cats, for which the tail is extremely important as a stabilizer in flight.

In a ten-year study, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Friedrich Schiller University and the Georgia Institute of Technology analyzed the movements of border collies wearing a special suit with sensors.

The scientists used software to supplement these experiments. This made it possible to smooth the splines that were matched against real data.

The researchers began their work by noting that members of the genus Canidae (canids) are unique among carnivorous mammals because they do not climb trees.

Thus, they do not need tails to, for example, balance on thin branches. The scientists then noticed that many other land animals with tails use them to stabilize themselves while running or jumping.

Cheetahs, for example, use their tails to keep themselves stable as they develop very high speeds.

The researchers noted that the tails of dogs are smaller than those of tree-dwelling animals and much less mobile than, for example, cats, which use their tails quite actively to maintain balance.

So why does a dog have a tail? Basically, she doesn’t need it.

Experiments and models

A dog does not need a tail for balance It has other features 2
А) Sensors for data collection. B) Reconstruction of animal movement based on experimental joint tracking and simulation. C) Measurements of kinematics at the scale of the body. D) Measurements of tail scale kinematics. E) Body rotation axis indicating yaw on the positive y-axis, roll on the positive x-axis, and pitch on the positive z-axis. F) Comparison of the orientation angles of the experimental data (dotted line) and simulated (solid line)

To find out if the tails help the dogs stabilize their movements, the researchers dressed several Border Collies in suits with built-in sensors that allowed the computer to record the movement of every part of the body while running, jumping and other activities.

Additional software helped with modeling and mapping. This allowed the researchers to create models of virtual dogs that performed the same actions as real ones. Scientists were able to perform an experiment that is impossible in reality – to remove tails from virtual dogs.

The removal of the tails showed very little difference in the ability to balance while moving. Overall, the researchers showed that dogs do not use their tails to maintain balance or change direction.

The scientists note that previous studies have shown how dogs use their tails to convey their moods and intentions. For example, a quick wag usually means the dog is happy.

Scientists suggest that while dog tails may have once served some vital purpose, nowadays dogs seem to use them only to show others how they feel – this is also a useful ability, but it is quite possible to survive without it.


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