Whenever and wherever this species first appeared, fossil evidence suggests that the modern Red fox has been in North Africa for the last 700,000 years and Europe for at least the last 400,000 years.
In Britain, remains of the Red fox have been found in Wolstonian Glacial sediments from Warwickshire, suggesting that they were around between 330,000 and 135,000 years ago.
and is thought to stem from the now extinct small fox-like , which lived in North America.
During the late Miocene, around 10 mya, something important happened: the third, and for our purposes most important, canid radiation began.
Fox domestication Living with the wild: interacting with wild foxes Interaction with other Species Small and Medium-sized Mammals Livestock Gamebirds Arctic Foxes and other Carnivores Deer Native Animals in Australia Plants and Invertebrates Questions and Answers Evolution and Early Distribution: Dogs and cats are Carnivorans, that is, they’re members of the taxonomic order Carnivora (note this is different to simply being a carnivore, or meat-eater, which is not a taxonomic grouping), which is one of 29 orders within the class Mammalia.
The evolution of carnivorans appears to have been a gradual process that happened in both North America and Eurasia, making it difficult to infer when it all started.
There is then something of a hiatus in the vulpine fossil record until the early Pliocene (about 4 mya), with foxes from China and Turkey among the earliest Eurasian specimens.
The origins of our modern-day Red fox (, which lived in southern Europe at the end of the Pliocene, around 2.6 mya – this species was first discovered in deposits from Italy in the late 1800s, but remains were subsequently found in France, Spain and Greece.
Following the retreat of ice from the last ice age (the Late Glacial) some 15,000 years ago, many of the larger mammal species began to re-appear and extend their range northwards.
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.
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.
So, the result was two isolated populations (or clades): one in Alaska (Holarctic clade) and one in the south (Nearctic clade).
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?