1. Red foxes may use Earth’s magnetic field to enhance hunting success

    Red foxes, Vulpes vulpes (Carnivora - Canidae) hunting rodents show a specific behavior known as ‘mousing’. The fox jumps high, so that it surprises its prey by striking from above. Prior to an attack, foxes move forward very slowly and deliberately, with ears erect, cocking their heads from side to side indicating that they are paying careful attention to auditory cues. However, the body direction of foxes as they attack are non-random.

    Field research observing mousing behavior in wild red foxes, and recording the body orientation of foxes while preparing for a jump, showed that a large majority of successful attacks in high cover were north-east-oriented jumps, while attacks in other directions were largely unsuccessful. 

    This north-east preferred attack directions cannot be explained by an effect of light cues since observations were carried out at different times of day, at different seasons of the year, under overcast and clear skies. Nor was this clustering a response to wind direction, which varied from observation to observation.

    When hunting for prey in high cover or under snow, foxes are unable to use visual cues to augment auditory cues to target prey. So, directional heading has a profound effect on hunting success under such conditions. In low vegetation, where the prey can be spotted also by sight, directional heading seems to play a less decisive role.

    In the absence of any other source of directional information that can explain the non-random alignment of fox predatory attacks and, in particular, the precise alignment of successful attacks on prey in high cover and under snow, it was proposed that these responses are a case of alignment with respect to the geomagnetic field (GMF). 

    Furthermore, a fox that approaches an unseen prey along a northward compass bearing could estimate the distance of its prey by moving forward until the sound source is in a fixed relationship to the magnetic field, e.g. it coincides with the inclination of the magnetic field.

    Thus, when visual information is limited, using the magnetic compass to provide a more accurate estimate of distance from the prey could account for the dramatic increase in predatory success of attacks aligned to the north and south field. If so, this would be the first documented case of an animal using magnetic compass input to estimate distance, rather than direction.

    Reference: ČervenýJ.BegallS.KoubekP.NovákováP. and BurdaH. (2011). Directional preference may enhance hunting accuracy in foraging foxes. Biol. Lett. 7355-357.  Abstract/FREE Full Text

    Photo credit: ©Eric Megnuson | Locality: Colorado, US - [Top] - [Bottom]

  4. bijoux-et-mineraux:

    Proustite - Freiberg, Freiberg District, Erzgebirge, Saxony, Germany

    (Source: fineart.ha.com, via scientistsarepeopletoo)

  5. rhamphotheca:

    Sudell’s Frog or Painted Burrowing Frog (Neobatrachus sudelli), a nocturnal burrowing frog found in SE Australia, up to only 4 cm in length.

    photograph by LiquidGhoul

  6. desixlb:

    the splendid and super cool achiote tree (Bixa orellana) with its red, spiny fruit. which bear the flavorful anatto seeds.  

    allerton garden, national tropical botanical garden.

    kauai, hawaii.

    © desixlb 2014

    (via the-secret-life-of-plants)

  7. rhamphotheca:

    Can Snowshoe Hares Evolve to Cope With Climate Change?

    The color-changing North American animals may adapt by staying brown for longer periods.

    by Emma Marris

    There’s something odd about a bright white snowshoe hare motionless and alert—without any hint of snow nearby.

    Gleaming white on a brown background of dirt and leaves, the hares, which are native to the mountain ranges of North America, might as well be wearing an “eat me” sign for lynx and other predators.

    Scott Mills and Marketa Zimova of North Carolina State University call this “mismatch”—when the hare, which turns from brown to white as the fall becomes winter and back again in spring, doesn’t match its background.

    Usually, hares seem to time their color change pretty well. Now the average hare is mismatched only about a week out of the year.But climate change is likely to make such awkward—and potentially fatal—mismatches much more common, the team said this week at the North America Congress for Conservation Biology in Missoula, Montana…

    (read more: National Geographic)

    photo by Robert Harding/World Imagery/ CORBIS

  9. earthlynation:

    Ornate Rainfrog (Pristimantis ornatissimus) (by Lucas M. Bustamante-Enríquez)

  11. nycbugman:

    Paraphidippus aurantius (ID unconfirmed)

  12. griseus:

    There is a wide range of lifespans for the various creatures that inhabit the oceans.

    (via talkzoology)

  13. bijoux-et-mineraux:

    Iridescent Hematite - Elba Island, Tuscany, Italy

    (Source: fineart.ha.com, via mineralogasm)

  14. fairy-wren:

    Golden-headed Manakin (by jaytee27)

    (via anguiculus)

  15. Short-beaked echidna 

    The Short-beaked echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus (Monotrematae - Tachyglossidae), is the most widely distributed endemic Australian mammal, and echidnas from different geographic areas differ so much in appearance that they have been assigned to several subspecies.

    This is the tasmanian subspecies, Tachyglossus aculeatus setosus. They look a lot more cuddly and have a lot more hair than the ones on the Australian mainland that are all spines.

    Echidnas lay shell covered eggs that hatch outside the mother’s body, and although they do not have teats, secrete milk through several pores in the belly.

    References: [1] - [2]

    Photo credit: ©Donovan Wilson | Locality: Tasmania