Foxes ate Ice Age humans´ leftovers

This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Recently, a convergence of views has led to the notion that the study of animal domestication may tell us something not only about our relationship with domesticated species since perhaps at least the Pleistocene, but also about our own evolution as a species in the more distant past. This symposium brings together scientists from a variety of research backgrounds to examine these views and to elucidate further the possible role of domestication in human evolution.

Robert Wayne (UCLA) begins with a discussion about The Transformation of Wolf to Dog: History, Traits, and Genetics, followed by Anna Kukekova (Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on Fox Domestication and Genetics of Complex Behaviors, and Robert Franciscus (Univ of Iowa) on Craniofacial Feminization in Canine and Human Evolution. Recorded on 10/10/2014.

From PLOS:

Foxes have been eating humans’ leftovers for 42,000 years

Ancient fox diets might be good indicators of human impact on past ecosystems

July 22, 2020

The diets of ancient foxes were influenced by humans, and these small carnivores might be tracers of human activity over time, according to a study published July 22, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Chris Baumann of the University of Tübingen, Germany and colleagues.

Foxes love leftovers. In the wild, foxes regularly feed on scraps left behind by larger predators like bears and wolves, but the closer foxes live to human civilization, the more of their diet is made up of foods that humans leave behind. In this study, Baumann and colleagues hypothesized that if this commensal relationship goes back to ancient times, then foxes might be useful indicators of human impact in the past.

The authors compared ratios of Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes between the remains of various herbivores, large carnivores, and red and Arctic foxes from several archaeological sites in southwest Germany dating to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. At sites older than 42,000 years, when Neanderthals sparsely occupied the region, fox diets were similar to their local large carnivores. But in the younger sites, as Homo sapiens became common in the area, foxes developed a more unique diet consisting largely of reindeer, which are too big for foxes to hunt but which are known to have been important game for ancient humans of the time.

These results suggest that during the Upper Palaeolithic, these foxes made a shift from feeding on scraps left by local large predators to eating food left behind by humans. This indicates that foxes’ reliance on human food goes back a good 42,000 years. The authors propose that, with further studies investigating this fox-human relationship, ancient fox diets may be useful indicators of human impact on ecosystems over time.

The authors add: “Dietary reconstructions of ice-age foxes have shown that early modern humans had an influence on the local ecosystem as early as 40,000 years ago. The more humans populated a particular region, the more the foxes adapted to them.”

Roe deer drives away red fox, video

This September 2019 video shows a female roe deer with her fawn in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands. When, as the night falls, a red fox approaches, the roe deer mother drives it away.

Researchers analyzed genetic material of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) inhabiting Berlin and its surroundings. They identified two genetically distinct, adjacent ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ fox populations and revealed that physical barriers such as rivers or man-made structures reduce the exchange between these populations but also differences in human activity in these landscapes play a major role: here.

Young female Arctic fox’s Svalbard-Canada journey

This video says about itself:

Arctic Fox mother and young kits. The video was taken by Barry Miller on a Cheeseman’s Ecology Safari to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago. The foxes were found off a fiord just northeast of Longyearbyen. The trip was late June – early July 2018.

From Polar Research, June 2019, by Eva Fuglei and Arnaud Tarroux:

Arctic fox dispersal from Svalbard to Canada: one female’s long run across sea ice


We report the first satellite tracking of natal dispersal by an Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) between continents and High-Arctic ecosystems.

A young female left Spitsbergen (Svalbard Archipelago, Norway) on 26 March 2018 and reached Ellesmere IslandNew Arctic fungi species discovered, Nunavut, Canada, 76 days later, after travelling a cumulative distance of 3506 km, bringing her ca. 1789 km away (straight-line distance) from her natal area. The total cumulative distance travelled during the entire tracking period, starting when she left her natal area on 1 March 2018 and ending when she settled on Ellesmere Island on 1 July 2018, was 4415 km.

This is among the longest dispersal events ever recorded for an Arctic fox. Crossing extensive stretches of sea ice and glaciers, the female moved at an average rate of 46.3 km/day ± 41.1 SD. The maximum movement rate was 155 km/day and occurred on the ice sheet in northern Greenland. This is the fastest movement rate recorded for this species. The northernmost location recorded was on the sea ice off northern Greenland at a latitude of 84.7°N.

The Arctic fox was of the blue colour morph typical for coastal environments, where Arctic foxes are adapted to food webs without lemmings but with substantial inputs of marine food resources.

The Arctic fox settled on Ellesmere Island in a food web with lemmings, thereby switching ecosystems. Our observation supports evidence of gene flow across Arctic regions, including those seasonally bridged by sea ice, found in studies of the circumpolar genetic structure of Arctic fox populations.

The Arctic fox's long journey, from Polar Research

Eventually, the fox’s journey continued beyond Ellesmere Island. Her collar stopped working on 9 February 2019. So, we don’t know what happened to her after that.

See also here.