Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vulpes vulpes

I've been marveling lately on an illustration I saw recently of an extinct species of crocodile lunging out of the water, reaching to grab a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The event itself, that it occurred on the planet we now inhabit, is a marvel in itself but what I've really been marveling at is the sheer amount of energy involved in that event and how systems involving that much energy all begin their story in the form of single cells (both evolutionary and developmentally speaking).   From just two little cells comes a massive, 30 or 40 foot crocodile death-rolling a T. Rex.  Just so cool.

The day I took the photos below I witnessed what may have been the most wild biological energy I've seen.  The event was too far away from me so I don't have any photographs but here's what I saw: at first we noticed a group of gannets plunge diving.  You can see the group of birds circling around, looking a bit like gulls and then one will just drop out of the air and slash into the surface.  One after another was diving over and over.  That's already a lot of energy but you have to imagine the enormous school of fish that was hidden below the surface as well.

After a few minutes we walked a little further and noticed a second and third large group of gannets plunge diving.  Now I had the thought..."there's an awful lot of fish under there.  I wonder if there are whales nearby."  Sure enough, we waited and began to saw fin slapping, a behavior humpbacks and some other whales will do to signal good fishing spots to their kin.  You see the huge pectoral fin (humpbacks, even though not the largest whales, have the longest pectoral fins) rise up from the surface and then come crashing down, making a noise loud enough to hear from shore.

After watching all this energy, all these cells consume one another for a while we then noticed that there were more cells around.  I did get photographs of these and so they're the title of the post.  Here is Vulpes vulpes, the red fox:

By being quiet we were able to watch these two cubs rough and tumble play for a good 10-20 minutes.  It was really quite cool and a fairly unique experience for me. I've seen foxes in the wild before but never out in total daylight playing like this.

So V. vulpes here is the world's most widely distributed wild carnivore.  And though they mainly feed on small rodents like mice and voles they will eat just about anything they can get: other mammals, small birds, inverts like beetles and worms, decaying fruit and bits from compost piles are all on the menu.  I've even seen foxes "fishing" (for what I'm not entirely sure).

Unlike wolves foxes do not form packs but do live in smaller social groups usually consisting of a mated pair and a few of their daughters who will help to raise subsequent pups.  Like all canids and most mammals they mark their territory with urine.

V. vulpes's territory is limited by C. lupis (the grey wolf) and C. latrans (the coyote) however reduction of the former's range has increased the range of v. vulpes.  The red fox is also capable of inhabiting nearly any temperate terrestrial biome from coastal scrub/dunes (as pictured above) to alpine ridges.

V. vulpes also includes a vast number of subspecies/subpopulations that vary in coloration.  If you see a fox in the United States that is NOT the typical reddish orange of the animals depicted above it is still, in all likelihood a red fox.  Though this exchange did not involve as much energy as a T. Rex or a whale I was still glad I had the opportunity to photograph these beautiful animals and looked forward to sharing them here.  I have a few more that I may just post to the web album.  Enjoy!

One note:  I have been failing to include references for the last few posts on L. littorea and Uca genus crabs. Those along with this post have nearly entirely been based on information from  As always this is my go-to reference.  The post on L. littorea also came from my knowledge as a marine educator....yeah, I talk about snails a lot.


  1. So where did you see these foxes, whales etc.?

  2. Yes, I meant to say these photographs where taken at Race Point, Provincetown, MA.