A recent study by a team of researchers at the University of Tubingen found that foxes may have been feeding on human scraps for more than 40,000 years. According to the team’s in-depth study of several sites in southern Germany, isotope analysis showed that ancient foxes ate human residue in addition to eating larger animal remains.
Foxes have been around big cities since the 1930s, and london alone now has about 10,000 red foxes. These urban predators and scavengers are common in many places, especially in the suburbs where they eat human-discarded food scraps.
If we want to know what modern foxes eat in many ways, such as looking at them, checking things in their stomachs, or checking for food residues in their faeces. But for ancient foxes, the situation is more complicated. While fossils of fox droppings may be found, or inferred from tooth wear, they are largely from the side, and there is no more positive evidence.
Scientists at the Senkenberg Center for Human Evolution and The Paleoenvironment at the University of Tubingen have unearthed several fox bones in several caves in the Schwaben-Jura region, between 42,000 and 32,000 years ago. The team came to this conclusion by analyzing the remains of multi-grown predators, large carnivores, and red and Arctic foxes to compare carbon and nitrogen isotope stakes.
But in several newer sites, some 42,000 years ago, they found Homo sapiens to be active, while foxes ate mainly reindeer. Reindeer are large and impossible to be a fox hunt, but they have become an important target of human hunting at that time.
In the late Paleolithic period, foxes stopped eating leftover residue from large carnivores and began eating human remains alone, researchers wrote in the latest issue of the American Journal of Science. This shows that the relationship between foxes and human food dates back 42,000 years. They therefore suggest that analyzing the ancient fox diet may help study the human impact on ecosystems.
The study was published in Plos ONE.
Source: University of Tubingen.