Saturday, December 4, 2010

Clever as a fox?

I visited the RMBL field site for the first time this summer and was taking a look around late one morning after we had finished our marmot research. During my walk, I encountered a fox very intently focused on something. In fact, that fox was sitting on the porch of one of the cabins that the researchers stay in!

A closer look revealed to me that this clever fox was watching one of our marmots! He was sitting very quietly just like a dog on his best behavior waiting for a treat. However, this member of the family Canidae was waiting to snack on a marmot. Panning out on the image below, you can see that this fox had learned the location of this marmot's burrow and was waiting patiently for the marmot to come out.

However, marmots are excellent at detecting predators and this marmot, just like me, had seen the fox. The marmot responded by quickly seeking cover and lived to see yet another day at RMBL. Predators and their prey are constantly evolving new ways to "outwit" each other. This leads to what us biologists call an "evolutionary arms-race." In this race, at least on this day, the marmot has won. Perhaps we should change the phrase, "clever as a fox" to "clever as a marmot"!

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! I am enchanted and fascinated by your friend, the fox. I am not sure who I am rooting for!