(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).
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.
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).
The flooding of the Doggerland ‘bridge’ around 6,500 years ago isolated Britain’s foxes from those in Europe, putting an end to any natural mixing of the populations.
Nonetheless, taxonomists (those who study how species are related to each other) currently think that the carnivorans evolved from animals called miacids, which were small tree-living mammals that looked similar to modern-day civets.
At some point -- by current thinking, around 42 million years ago (mya), during the mid-Eocene -- it appears that the carnivorans split into the two groups, or suborders, that we recognise as cat-like (Feliformia) and dog-like (Caniformia).
Previously it was believed that the first modern Red foxes (i.e.
) to appear on the continent migrated (again, presumably across the Bering land bridge) from Europe at the end of the Pleistocene (around 1 mya) and, from here, Red and Arctic foxes colonised much of North America.