Comparing the Hearing and Smelling Dependency of the Red Fox

Friday, 13 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Samantha J. Keum, Shaker Heights, OH
The Red Fox is known to be a highly adaptive omnivorous member of the Canidae family, able to live in both urban and rural areas. Its adaptability is due to its exceptional senses that has allowed this mammal to locate food and predators with relative ease, hearing and smelling being the strongest of the senses. What remains unknown though is which of the two senses is the strongest, hearing or smelling. A 11 year old Red Fox living at the the Perkins Wildlife Center abd Woods Garden at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was used as the subject of this experiment over the course of four years to find out which of those two senses proved to be the most efficient while hunting for possible prey in its outdoor enclosure. Two years were spent familiarizing the Red Fox with the student researcher before the conducting the actual trials of this study to ensure the Red Fox would act as naturally as possible in the presence of the student researcher near or inside of its enclosure. The latter two years of this four year study were spent conducting hearing and smelling trials. For the trials, certain objects pertaining to either the smelling or hearing, never both types, were buried around the enclosure once the Red Fox was either safely stowed away in its kennel or closed off to one of the two portions of its outdoor enclosure, preventing the subject from seeing where the objects were being buried. The time it took for the Red Fox to uncover these items was recorded and used to see which of the two senses had the faster response times over the course of the summers of 2013 and 2014, six trials for hearing and nine trials for smelling. Once the Red Fox successfully uncovered the hidden object, it would be rewarded with a dried piece of fruit and the stimuli would be removed from the enclosure. The first three hearing trials’ had a repeated 7000Hz tone emitted from a cellphone in a plastic container, and the latter three used a continuous Cottontail Rabbit squeal playing from the same cellphone and plastic container. The first six smelling trials included a crumbled newspaper ball drenched in a leftover fish liquid, and the last three trials had two crumbled newspaper balls drenched in a leftover horsemeat liquid, two of this Red Fox’s main proteins. Hearing’s overall average time recorded was 116 seconds, ranging between 36 seconds and 185 seconds. Smelling’s average was 31 seconds, ranging between 16 seconds and 62 seconds. With an 85 second time difference between the averages of the two types of testing, it was determined that this particular Red Fox’s sense of smell was much more responsive and efficient while hunting when juxtaposed with its sense of hearing.