Foxes see Earth’s magnetic field and use it to target prey
2011-02-04 0:00

By Lindsay Patterson | EarthSky.org

Foxes are the first animals thought to use Earth’s magnetic field to judge distance, not just direction.

Birds do it. Bees do it. Now, foxes are the most recent of Earth’s animals suspected of utilizing Earth’s magnetic field as part of their everyday functioning.

Foxes that are hunting small animals in high grass or deep snow might be using the magnetic field to launch a successful attack against prey. Writing in the journal Biology Letters, a Czech research team said it suspects the foxes use an internal compass to judge both direction and distance.

It’s been shown that cows and deer, not just birds and bees, orient their direction to the Earth’s magnetic field. But foxes are the first animals thought to use an internal compass to determine the distance to prey.

Foxes jump high to surprise their prey from above, a hunting technique called “mousing.” Czech researchers observed that foxes on the hunt tend to direct their jumps in a roughly northeastern compass direction, regardless of the time of day, cloud cover, or other factors that could affect how they perceive their prey. In fact, a large majority of the nearly 600 attacks the scientists observed were oriented in the same direction. They found that 74 percent of the north-east-oriented attacks were successful, while attacks launched in other directions had only an 18 percent rate of success. That’s too big a difference to be random, the scientists believe.

Foxes are known to use their keen sense of hearing before launching their jump, and that works well when they can also see their prey. But the scientists had reason to suspect that they had another sense to judge how far to jump when they can’t see small creatures in snow or high vegetation.

The research team wrote:

We suggest that mousing red foxes may use the magnetic field as a ‘range finder’ or targeting system to measure distance to its prey and thus increase the accuracy of predatory attacks.


They suggest that the fox may see a ring of “shadow” on its retina, that is superimposed on its surroundings and always fixed towards magnetic north. The fox would line up the shadow with where it hears its prey, and is thus always at a fixed distance away from the prey when it launches its attack.

Here’s how Nature explains it:

Think of a laser pointer attached to you that always points slightly downwards in the same direction. Now think of some object on the ground. If you walk towards the object until the laser spot is on top of it you know that object is a set distance away.


That may explain why foxes are such good hunters: they use the Earth’s magnetic field to zero in on their prey.


Article from: earthsky.org

Amazing Fox Snow Dive (2009)

Video from: YouTube.com






The Red Fox’s Magnetic Attraction
From: CBC’s Quirks and Quarks


Mousing fox, courtesy Jaroslav Vogeltanz

"We know the fox to be sly and cunning, but new research by Dr. Sabine Begall, the Associate Head of the Department of Zoology at the University of Duisberg-Essen in Germany, has found another remarkable trait. Foxes have the ability to find prey in either tall grass or under cover of snow, using the Earth’s magnetic field.

For this reason, the fox has a preference for facing magnetic north, within ten degrees, when hunting. The research showed a much higher success rate when the fox aligned itself in this way than in any other direction.

The research suggests that the fox sees a shadow on its retina that is darkest toward magnetic north. Like a normal shadow, this ’image’ appears to be a constant distance ahead of the fox. When the shadow lines up with where the fox perceives the sound of a mouse, for example, it launches itself into the air, coming straight down on its prey. "


Listen to this item (pop up player) or use this link to download an mp3.


Article from: cbc.ca/quirks





Related Articles
Birds use quantum theory to literally ’see’ Earth’s magnetic field as they fly
British Geological Survey: Magnetic reversal may now be in progress
Shift in magnetic north pole affects... Tampa airport
Ask a Physicist: Geomagnetic Reversal, The End of the World? (Video)
Military Testing Behind Mass Bird and Fish Deaths?
Quebec bird deaths stump wildlife officials
Dying birds stir extinction fears - New Zealand
Sun "Fireworks" Responsible for the Mass Killing of Birds?


Latest News from our Front Page

The Unsafe Child: Less Outdoor Play is Causing More Harm than Good
2015-09-02 0:39
The third grade classroom that was visiting our nature center for the day consisted of mostly boys–rowdy, loud and rambunctious boys. As we started out into the woods, the children spoke loudly to each other in anticipation of what was to come. After playing a quick game and explaining the ground rules, it was time for free play. As soon ...
Rights group demand police need warrant to access data
2015-09-01 23:48
American citizens should be able to rest safe in the knowledge that no one has the right to pry into their digital records, where they have been and how long they stayed there. The Supreme Court has just received a brief from the Electronic Frontier Federation (EFF) stating that this should certainly be the case. However, in the case of Davis v. ...
Murder Rates Rising Sharply in Many U.S. Cities
2015-09-01 23:33
Cities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines, and few places have witnessed a shift as precipitous as this city [Milwaukee]. With the summer not yet over, 104 people have been killed this year–after 86 homicides in all of 2014. More than 30 other cities have also reported increases in violence from a year ...
Bulgaria - Islamic State Terrorists Caught Crossing Into Europe Posing As Refugees
2015-09-01 23:47
Bulgarian authorities near the Gyueshevo border checkpoint detained the five men, aged between 20 and 24, late on Wednesday, Bulgarian broadcaster NOVA TV reported. The men were stopped by a border guard, who they attempted to bribe with a “wad of dollars.” However, they were searched and Islamic State propaganda, specific Jihadists prayers and decapitation videos were found on their phones. In ...
How This NY Mom Made the Case for Her Son’s Religious Vaccine Exemption
2015-09-01 22:27
An unidentified, Russian immigrant mother who practices the Russian Orthodox faith, has secured a religious vaccine exemption for her autistic son. New York has a bill on the table to eliminate religious exemption and to root out those who weren’t refusing vaccines on strictly devout, religious grounds. Yet, this woman’s plight goes back before talk of eliminating the exemption – two ...
More News »