The highly adaptable red fox
can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and is considered the most widespread carnivore on the planet.
But while it might be commonplace in many parts of the world, the red fox has an ability that’s anything but ordinary: It uses Earth’s magnetic field to hunt.
Red foxes feed primarily on small rodents, and unlike most mammals, they can hear low-frequency sounds
extremely well. When a fox is hunting, it listens intently and can pick up on tiny sounds — including the sound of a vole scampering beneath 3 feet of snow.
Even when its prey is out of sight, the fox can pinpoint the animal’s exact location. It then leaps into the air and strikes from above, a technique known as mousing.
But scientists don’t think this amazing ability is due to the fox’s extraordinary hearing alone.
Jaroslav Červený spent two years studying red foxes in the Czech Republic, and his team observed 84 foxes perform almost 600 mousing jumps.
They discovered that the animals mostly pounced in a northeastern direction and they were more likely to make a kill if they jumped along this axis — even when prey was hidden by snow.
When they pounced to the northeast, the foxes killed on 73 percent of their attacks. If they jumped in the opposite direction, the success rate was 60 percent. In all other directions, only 18 percent of pounces resulted in a kill.
Červený suspected the foxes were using their sensitive hearing and the Earth’s magnetic field
to plot their trajectory.
He described the foxes as using the magnetic field as a “rangefinder.” As a fox follows the sound of its unseen prey, it’s searching for that sweet spot where the angle of the sound matches the slope of the planet’s magnetic field.
When the fox finds that spot, it knows its exact distance from its prey and can calculate exactly how far to jump to catch it.
If scientists are correct, the red fox is the first animal known to use a magnetic sense to hunt and the first to use the planet’s magnetic field to estimate distance.
Many animals — including birds, sharks, ants and cows — can sense magnetic fields, but they use this ability to determine direction or position.
While scientists don’t know for sure how a fox’s magnetic sense works, Hynek Burda of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany has a hypothesis.
He suggests that a red fox could see a ring of “shadow” on its retina that darkens toward magnetic north. Just like a normal shadow, it always appears to be the same distance ahead.
Burda says that as a fox stalks a rodent, it moves forward until the shadow lines up with the sounds of its prey. When everything is aligned, the fox knows the exact location of its target, and it jumps.
A recently discovered G tridens fruitfly that has evolved a to have images of detailed, ant-like insects on each wing, complete with six legs, a thorax, antennae and a tapered abdomen. The fly uses the images defensively, waving them back and forth when threatened to create the illusion of massing ants. Many G Tridens varieties bear elaborate wing markings, but this one, discovered in Oman, is very striking. I think more beasties should have van-art bestowed on them by the strange world of evolution.
More info here.
Now crowdfunding: 100 years later, let’s remember and act.
A documentary on the passenger pigeon—and how we can learn from its extinction? Yes, please! If you have a few dollars spare, toss it that way!
The other day on my Tumblr, I reblogged a set of images featuring “pet animals” on one side and “food animals” on the other, with the statement “Why love one but eat the other?” in the middle. They were from billboards that ran in Toronto a couple of years ago. The message, of course, is that we shouldn’t eat chickens, pigs, and cows because they’re animals just like puppies and kittens are; it’s an attempt to turn people to vegetarianism or veganism.
Care of BeVeg.ca
I don’t think I gave the desired response. For one thing, I have reasons for not going veg*n. I’m an obligate omnivore due to various quirks of my body and its metabolism; I even have it on doctor’s orders that I need a reasonable amount of meat protein because I tend to get sick otherwise, even on a well-balanced vegetarian diet. And I don’t respond well to attempted guilt trips masked as appeals to emotion, especially when they present only one true way for everyone to do something. So I decided to respond with some non-rhetorical reasons why we eat cows and not cats:
Because generally speaking herbivores taste better than carnivores. Also, we’ve spent centuries selectively breeding cows, pigs, and chickens to be meatier and tastier, while we haven’t done that with cats and dogs. And it’s easier to raise herbivores as food behaviorally, especially because we have bred them to be more docile.
And it’s also cultural. There have been and still are cultures in which dog and cat meat is acceptable; it’s just that in Western cultures, where this sort of ad campaign pops up, it’s not acceptable. If you talk to anyone raised on a farm, though, you know that farm kids are raised with the idea that some of the animals end up as food, and that you can be attached to them and care for them and still accept that fact. If they’re from a hunting family they often learn that the same deer they hunt are also beautiful animals that can be admired, and this doesn’t have to be a contradiction. On a farm, you’re closer to life and death than people who shop at the grocery store and have never raised their own meat or gone hunting. I didn’t grow up on a farm itself, but I grew up in a rural area with lots of farms, and with the reality that if I am going to eat, something has to die, whether animal, plant, or fungus.
I have had people ask me before, “How can you say you love animals when you have dead ones all over your home? How can you appreciate them when you support killing and eating them?”
Read the rest here.
Piebald moose!!!! I’ve seen (pictures of) deer like this before but not a moose!
Sources: [x] [x] [a couple more pictures!]
This isn’t a real spider, rather a decoy spider built from twigs, leaves, debris, dead insects. Researchers discovered the insect in the Peruvian Amazon, and even though its decoy looks like a medium-sized spider, the impressive fake was actually made by a tiny, 5mm spider. That spider is likely, researchers say, a new species of Cyclosa, a genus known to pull similar stunts. But those creations are nothing at this level of detail. The smaller builder-insect even moves back and forth, giving the impression that the decoy insect is moving and, in the process, confusing predators into attacking the decoy instead.
Just another reminder that this is the price paid for many of the hides and bones we have and work with. They are not made in a factory. They are not made from plant fibers or petroleum. They come from living animals like this one, many of whom died like this one. Remember that.
Remember that, and act accordingly. If you choose, as I have, to continue working with the hides and bones—with the sacred remains, as I feel they are—please don’t forget this image. If you choose, buy only those that did not die like this, or if you do, at least be aware of their deaths. If you will, act with reverence when you handle them. If you will, do something to give back to the Land, and to the wildlife.
This is a reminder. Pass it on, please.