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Detection of radiating body heat signals by European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)

Björkdahl, Linnea (2018) BIOM02 20181
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
Most mammals have a cold naked nose tip, called the rhinarium, the rhinarium is connected to the somatosensory system, and is hypothesized to have a common function throughout the order of carnivora. It has recently been found that the domestic dog can detect radiating body heat with the cold rhinarium. In this study, a European red fox was trained to detect radiating heat from a distance of 50 cm. The animal was tested for 100 trials and made 69 correct choices. A single tailed cumulative binomial distribution was calculated, showing a highly significant result (p<0,001). This study have shown that the European red fox can detect radiating body heat, a finding that supports the hypothesis that the ability is consistent throughout the... (More)
Most mammals have a cold naked nose tip, called the rhinarium, the rhinarium is connected to the somatosensory system, and is hypothesized to have a common function throughout the order of carnivora. It has recently been found that the domestic dog can detect radiating body heat with the cold rhinarium. In this study, a European red fox was trained to detect radiating heat from a distance of 50 cm. The animal was tested for 100 trials and made 69 correct choices. A single tailed cumulative binomial distribution was calculated, showing a highly significant result (p<0,001). This study have shown that the European red fox can detect radiating body heat, a finding that supports the hypothesis that the ability is consistent throughout the taxonomic order of carnivora. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Detection of radiating body heat signals by European red foxes

Dogs, as most other terrestrial mammals, has a hairless nose tip called a rhinarium. The rhinarium feels cold when the animal is alert and even though it is located in the nasal region, it plays no role in olfaction. Instead, it is connected to the somatosensory system in the brain, suggesting a sensory function. It has recently been found that dogs can detect radiating long-wave infrared body heat with the cold rhinarium. This ability should be useful when hunting, and could be a common function of the rhinarium throughout the carnivoran order. The aim of the study was to see if this ability is shared with other species in the carnivoran order.

The dog and the red fox... (More)
Detection of radiating body heat signals by European red foxes

Dogs, as most other terrestrial mammals, has a hairless nose tip called a rhinarium. The rhinarium feels cold when the animal is alert and even though it is located in the nasal region, it plays no role in olfaction. Instead, it is connected to the somatosensory system in the brain, suggesting a sensory function. It has recently been found that dogs can detect radiating long-wave infrared body heat with the cold rhinarium. This ability should be useful when hunting, and could be a common function of the rhinarium throughout the carnivoran order. The aim of the study was to see if this ability is shared with other species in the carnivoran order.

The dog and the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) evolved from a common ancestor about 10 million years ago. They are closely related species and share a large amount of genetic material, and is therefore an ideal species when testing the occurrence of infrared sensing throughout the order.

The study was carried out at Skånes Djurpark (Zoo of Scania) in Höör, Sweden, between January and May 2018. The group of foxes at the zoo consists of a 12-year-old male, born in the zoo, and three females. The females are siblings, four years old, and come from a Norwegian zoo.

The study was strictly behavioural and no harm was imposed to any animal. Participation was voluntary and no animal was either directly or indirectly forced to participate, since this was not their only source of food. The training was considered enrichment for the animals and only methods of positive reinforcement were used.

To test if the foxes were able to detect infrared body heat, a setup consisting of a wooden box with three walls and a floor was used. On the fourth side, two moveable panels with high infrared emissivity was attached. One panel was left at ambient temperature, and the other was heated up to 8-10 °C above. The cold panel was blocked, but the warm panel could be pushed backwards to expose a bowl with a reward. Raw meat was placed beneath both panels to prevent the animals from smelling which side was correct, although they would only receive the reward when choosing the warm side. A wooden board separated the two panels, forcing the animals to choose side 50 cm in front of the panels.

One individual was tested for 100 trials, out of which 69 was correct. A single tailed cumulative binomial distribution was calculated, to see whether the animal had actually understood the task and did not make all choices by chance. The result was significant with a p-value <0,001.

This study showed that the European red fox possess the ability to detect long-wave infrared body heat, but more species need to be examined before the conclusion that the ability is consistent throughout the carnivoran order can be drawn.

Master’s Degree Project in Biology 30 credits 2018
Department of Biology, Lund University

Supervisor: Ronald Kröger, Vision group (Less)
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author
Björkdahl, Linnea
supervisor
organization
course
BIOM02 20181
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
Swedish
id
8966199
date added to LUP
2019-01-14 10:00:45
date last changed
2019-01-14 10:00:45
@misc{8966199,
  abstract     = {Most mammals have a cold naked nose tip, called the rhinarium, the rhinarium is connected to the somatosensory system, and is hypothesized to have a common function throughout the order of carnivora. It has recently been found that the domestic dog can detect radiating body heat with the cold rhinarium. In this study, a European red fox was trained to detect radiating heat from a distance of 50 cm. The animal was tested for 100 trials and made 69 correct choices. A single tailed cumulative binomial distribution was calculated, showing a highly significant result (p<0,001). This study have shown that the European red fox can detect radiating body heat, a finding that supports the hypothesis that the ability is consistent throughout the taxonomic order of carnivora.},
  author       = {Björkdahl, Linnea},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Detection of radiating body heat signals by European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)},
  year         = {2018},
}