When the ice melted the Holarctic clade spread south and east, while the Nearctic clade spread north, the two meeting in central Canada.
Aubry’s data reveal more than just the distribution of foxes in pre-history, it also elucidates the relatedness of the animals currently inhabiting North America (see: Taxonomy).
(Back to Menu) Taxonomy: Many texts on fox natural history cannot help but draw comparisons between the fox and the cat and, if you spend any time watching them, you’re certainly struck by how similarly they behave: both have the same delicate, tripping gait; both stalk and pounce in much the same way; both sit and sleep with tails curled around their bodies; both twitch tail tips to allow young to practice hunting; both will use a paw to scoop unwary fish out of a garden pond.
Anatomically, however, foxes have the large ears, the long pointed muzzle, the 42 teeth and the non-retractable claws (five on forefeet and four on hind) that we typically associate with dogs, although they do share the vertically-slit pupils commonly associated with cats (larger canids, such as wolves and domestic dogs, have round pupils).
Evolution and Early Distribution Taxonomy North American Red foxes British Red foxes Size Appearance and Colour Samson foxes Distribution Habitat Abundance Ageing and Longevity Mortality and Disability Parasites and Diseases Sexing Activity Dens/Earths and Resting Sites Senses Vision Hearing Smell Touch Territoriality and Home Range Predators Food and Feeding Types of prey consumed Prey switching The influence of age and sex on diet How much food?
Hunting strategies and behaviour Killing to ‘excess’ and the storage of left-overs Breeding Biology Reproductive development The number of breeding vixens Mating and monogamy Gestation, birth and litter size Growth and development of the cubs Behaviour and Social Structure Live and let live: the evolution of group-living With a little help from my friends: ‘helpers’ in fox society Keeping order and knowing your place: the social hierarchy All in the name of fun: fox body language Nightly interactions Communication: something to shout about Interaction with Humans The fox in literature and film The emblematic fox Foxes held in high esteem: gods, devils and worship The fox as a resource: fur, meat and sport The verminous fox: foxes as pests Man’s best friend?
The large ice sheet that covered most of Canada and the northern fringes of the USA from around 100,000 to 10,000 years ago (during the Wisconsin glaciation) kept the Red foxes in Alaska (the population of which was added to by a second wave of colonisation from Eurasia) separate from those in the southern USA.
According to Derek Yalden’s fascinating book, , post-glacial remains of the Red fox have been found at several sites around Britain and suggest that this species re-appeared ‘naturally’ (i.e.
without any obvious assistance from humans) around 10,000 years ago.
Indeed, other fossil data imply that the ice forced foxes into the warmer southern regions of Europe (e.g.
In their 1982 comparison of Red and Arctic ( comes from the Old World and dates to the early Pleistocene (between 1.8 and 1 mya) of Hungary and, in her 2008 study of Red fox dentition, Polish Academy of Sciences mammalogist Elwira Szuma suggested that the current line evolved either in Asia Minor or North Africa around this time.
As fox populations rose in Eurasia, those in North America appear to have dwindled.