Highly Adaptable red fox is found in the northern hemisphere and is considered the most widespread carnivore on the planet. But although it is quite common in many parts of the world, the fox has an amazing ability: using the Earth’s magnetic field to hunt. Red foxes generally hunt small rodents and unlike most mammals can hear low-frequency sounds pretty good. When the fox hunt, she listens and can capture the lightest sounds – including the sound of the vole, which delve into the one-meter snow.
Even when she doesn’t see her prey, the fox can find its exact location. Then she jumps into the air and lands with the muzzle down exactly the right place. But scientists do not believe that the fox can do so only because of its good hearing.
Jaroslav Red studied two years the red foxes in the Czech Republic and his team observed 84 foxes make almost 600 hunting jump. They found that the animals are thrown more often to the northeast and have a better chance to kill their prey, if jump axis – even when the loot is hidden by snow. When throwing the northwest, observed foxes killed in 73% of trials. If they jumped in the opposite direction, their success was 60%. In all other directions, only 18% of jumps ended in killing prey.
Red suspect that foxes might use their sensitive hearing and Earth’s magnetic field to calculate the trajectory. It describes the ability of foxes as “rangefinder”. While fox tracks sound from invisible prey, she seeks the right place, where the angle of the sound coincides with the direction of the magnetic field of the planet. When the fox find this place, she knows the exact distance to its prey and can calculate how far to jump to catch it.
If scientists are right, the red fox will be the first animal we learn about that uses a magnetic field to hunt and to calculate distance.
Many animals – including birds, sharks and cows – can sense magnetic fields, but they use this ability to determine the direction or position. Scientists do not know exactly how does the magnetic sense work for the fox, but Hynek Burda of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany has its own theory. He suggests that the fox sees ring shadow that darkens when looking at the magnetic pole. According to him, a predator stalking its prey and moves towards her until the shadow is not aligned with sound. Then the fox knows the location of the target and bounce.