4 Fun Facts About Foxes: From Domestication to Incredible Journeys

Foxes, with their sharp wits and captivating charm, have intrigued humans for centuries. These adaptable and intelligent creatures exhibit a range of behaviors and abilities that reflect their complex nature and the diverse environments they inhabit.

Yawning fox
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From the scientific endeavors to domesticate them to their astonishing physical capabilities, here are four fun facts that highlight the remarkable aspects of foxes.

1. The Domesticated Silver Foxes of Russia: In a groundbreaking experiment starting in the 1950s, the USSR embarked on a journey to domesticate foxes, aiming to understand the domestication of wolves. This led to the creation of the Silver Fox breed, which, after 40 generations of selective breeding, showcased not only a friendly disposition towards humans but also physical and behavioral traits distinct from their wild counterparts. These domesticated foxes developed shorter tails, floppier ears, and changes in their skeletal structure, making them appear more dog-like and endearing.

2. The Incredible Hunting Acumen of Foxes: Foxes possess an extraordinary ability to leap 3 feet in the air and dive into snow to catch mice with incredible accuracy. They calculate the speed and trajectory of their prey, executing a nose dive with pinpoint precision. This hunting technique showcases their acute sensory abilities and physical agility, making them formidable predators in their natural habitats.

3. Ancient Fox Domestication in the Iberian Peninsula: Archaeological evidence from the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula reveals that foxes, alongside dogs, were domesticated by humans in the Bronze Age, around the third to second millennium BC. These ancient foxes shared a similar diet with their human companions, indicating a close relationship between the two species during this period. This fact sheds light on the long-standing bond between humans and foxes, predating many known instances of animal domestication.

4. A Young Arctic Fox’s Remarkable Journey: In an astonishing feat of endurance and navigation, a young female Arctic fox traveled from Norway to Canada, covering a distance of 3,506 km (2,179 miles) in just 76 days. This journey, which included crossing vast expanses of sea ice and glaciers, set records for both the speed and distance of travel for the species. With an average daily movement rate of 46.3 km, and peaking at 155 km in a single day, this Arctic fox’s journey is among the longest dispersal events ever recorded for the species, showcasing their incredible resilience and adaptability.

10 facts about cats

Cats, those enigmatic and independent creatures that share our homes, are a source of endless fascination and mystery. From their ancient history to their quirky behaviors, there’s so much more to these feline friends than meets the eye. Here are ten interesting facts about cats that might just surprise you.

Portrait of a happy sleeping cat
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1. Self-Domestication: Unlike most domesticated animals, cats essentially domesticated themselves. Originating from the European forest cat and Southwest Asia/North African wildcat, they were drawn to early human settlements because of the abundance of prey. Genetic studies indicate that domestic cats emerged around 4,400 BCE in the Near East and 1,500 BCE in North Africa, remaining genetically similar to their wild ancestors until the Middle Ages when selective breeding diversified their breeds.

2. Invasive Superpredators: Cats are known both as invasive species and superpredators. Their remarkable hunting skills enable them to significantly impact small fauna populations, placing them second only to humans in their predatory impact.

3. Hunting Tactics: When cats appear to be ‘playing’ with their prey, they are actually employing a strategy to exhaust them. This makes it safer for the cat to deliver a fatal bite without risking injury.

4. Unblinking Hunters: Cats don’t need to blink regularly to keep their eyes moist, giving them an advantage in hunting. However, they do squint, often as a form of affectionate communication with other cats or humans.

5. The Slow Blink: Anxious or scared cats can be soothed through a technique known as the ‘slow blink.’ It’s a non-threatening signal that can make nervous cats feel more at ease, and is widely used in animal shelters.

6. Black Cats and Sailors: Historically, sailors viewed black cats as good luck charms and would often have them aboard as ‘ship’s cats.’ Fishermen’s wives also kept black cats at home, believing they would ensure their husbands’ safe return from the sea.

7. Viking Wedding Gifts: In Viking culture, cats were valued and often given as wedding gifts due to their association with Freyja, the goddess of luck. A love for cats was seen as auspicious for a happy marriage.

8. Sacred Creatures: Several ancient religions revered cats as exalted souls and guides for humans, believed to be all-knowing but silent to avoid influencing human decisions.

9. Feline Social Awareness: Recent research has shown that cats not only recognize their own names but also the names of other cats and humans they interact with regularly.

10. Selective Listeners: A study has revealed that cats can recognize their owners’ voices but often choose to ignore them, displaying their famed independent nature.

From their origins to their complex behaviors and cultural significance, cats continue to captivate and intrigue us in countless ways.

Six Wonders of Octopus Intelligence: From Outsmarting Humans to Throwing Punches

When it comes to the vast world of marine life, the intelligence of octopuses is truly a spectacle that stands out. Beyond their inky excretions and dexterous arms, their intricate cognitive skills invite awe and curiosity. Here are seven fascinating facts that highlight the astonishing aptitude of these cephalopods:

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1. Octopuses are among the most intellectually advanced species on Earth, demonstrating abilities to solve intricate puzzles, use tools, and even plan for the future. They are such cognitive marvels that in some jurisdictions, it’s required by law to administer anesthesia before any surgical procedure is performed on them.

2. The octopus brain is a decentralized marvel. They possess nine brains in total – a smaller one in each of their eight arms, and a central brain that regulates the whole system. These arm brains can independently taste, touch and perform rudimentary movements, yet, in the face of a larger task, they collaborate seamlessly under the directive of the central brain.

3. Researchers have documented instances of octopuses punching fish. While the motivations behind this surprising behavior remain a subject of speculation, it’s hypothesized that this may be a form of punishment. This fascinating behavior showcases the capacity of the octopus’s brain for complex cognition, despite its drastically different structure compared to human brains.

4. Meet Otto, another famously crafty octopus, notorious for causing a power outage at his aquarium. Agitated by a glaring 2000-watt spotlight, Otto figured out how to shoot water at the light, leading to a short circuit. Known for his antics, he was also caught juggling his tank mates, smashing glass with thrown rocks, and persistently aiming water jets at annoying light fixtures.

5. Showcasing a Houdini-like talent, Inky the Octopus made headlines with his great escape from New Zealand’s National Aquarium. Seizing the opportunity one night, he squeezed through a tiny hole in his tank, slid across the aquarium floor, and navigated his way through a drainpipe that led directly to the ocean – a grand escape indeed.

6. While octopuses are often solitary and show antisocial tendencies toward their own kind, an interesting experiment demonstrated a significant shift in behavior. When given MDMA, a psychoactive drug, these typically asocial creatures became notably more sociable, displaying what can only be described as “hugging” behavior towards each other.

Wild Mice and the Joy of Running Wheels

Studies have discovered that when a running wheel is left in nature, wild mice will willingly use it to run, seemingly for their own pleasure.

A recent study reveals that wild mice voluntarily run on exercise wheels in their natural environment without any food reward, similar to how captive mice behave. This finding contradicts the belief that such activity is a result of captivity or an indicator of neurosis or repetitive behavior associated with confinement. Over a period of three years, the study recorded more than 200,000 visits by various free-living animal species to the exercise wheels, proving its popularity among wild creatures.

Animal Instincts: The Drive to Earn Food vs. The Desire to be Served

Research has shown that a variety of animals such as rats, gerbils, mice, birds, fish, monkeys, and chimpanzees all prefer to work for their meals rather than receiving it freely. However, cats were the only exception found in the study, demonstrating a preference for being served their food instead.

Idle Nature: The Unexpected Downtime in Insect Communities

Surprisingly, a significant number of animals, including those we typically consider industrious, spend a considerable amount of their time seemingly idle. Observations of social insect communities, such as ants or bees, reveal that roughly less than half of the population are often stationary, appearing to do nothing.