Red foxes use the Earth’s magnetic field to aid their hunting

 

Everyone’s heard the phrase ‘as cunning as a fox’, but do these supposedly crafty canines live up to their reputation?

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Certainly, if their remarkable hunting technique is anything to go by. Unlike wolves, red foxes tend to be solitary hunters, stealthily stalking their prey in a cat-like manner before pouncing high into the air and striking the clueless victim from above.

The fox’s recognisable pouncing technique is called mousing, and it’s thought by some scientists to rely on the Earth’s magnetic field. Other animals such as birds, bats and sharks also use the magnetic field like a sixth sense.

As if using a built-in compass, the prowling predators tend to jump in a north-easterly direction when catching their food, and are much more likely to make a kill when they do so. It’s believed that the fox can accurately target its prey by comparing the angle of sound waves hitting its super-sensitive ears with the axis of the Earth’s magnetic field. Once these two curvatures match up, the fox is able to pinpoint the exact distance it will need to jump in order to make a kill – sometimes from as far as five metres (16 feet) away.

 

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Image from www.flickr.com/photos/stuutje