Friday, January 14, 2011

foxes using magnetic field to hunt?!?

According to the article in NewScientist:
"Foxes jump high into the air before dropping onto prey. Burda's team found that when the foxes could see their prey they jumped from any direction but when prey were hidden, they almost always jumped north-east. Such attacks were successful 72 per cent of the time, compared with 18 per cent of attacks in other directions."

(PBS movie of a red fox hunting in snow at Yellowstone...delightful)

Burda couldn't figure out why, until he talked to John Phillips of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Phillips posited that the "animals might use Earth's magnetic field to measure distance."

"The pair think a fox hunts best if it can jump the same distance every time. Burda suggests that it sees a ring of 'shadow' on its retina that is darkest towards magnetic north, and just like a normal shadow, always appears to be the same distance ahead. The fox moves forward until the shadow lines up with where the prey's sounds are coming from, at which point it is a set distance away."

First of all, how cool is that? Secondly, the article also mentioned that cows position themselves using Earth's magnetic field, something already known, apparently. I'd NEVER heard of this.

Apparently this is also Burda's work:

"His team scoured satellite images of herds on six continents, identifying more than 8,000 beef and dairy cows. Plotted onto a compass, the animals' orientations weren't random. On average, cows faced five degrees off of geographic north or south. Live observations of hundreds of deer herds and their snow tracks revealed the same trend."


Really, that's all I can come up with: wow. TOO COOL!


Seriously, the planet is SUCH a fascinating place.



  1. If true, this certainly is too cool and gives animal magnetism an entirely new meaning!

  2. !! Fascinating! We are headed back up to Rocky Mountain National Park in a week or so and will definitely try and get more fox video pouncing... Unfortunately the area I voided last time was all in shadow...

    Thank you for sharing....the planet is indeed an amazing place and we are constantly learning ever more and more. Also, don't you just love the "Nature" program on PBS? We find it captures great animal behaviors in new light and never its' the audience.

  3. @Ben and Carrie: That'd be GREAT! Fresh pics from RoMo--what a STUNNING park. Been there twice only but WOW, what an incredible resource. TOTALLY looking forward to what you record there. =) Oh, yeah, grew up on Nature, big time. Awesome.


Cool people write inside rectangles....