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Using Earth's Magnetic Field

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Sly as a Fox

Sly as a Fox

 

Credit: Mivart, St. George Jackson
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keulemans_common_fox.png
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

This drawing shows a common red fox. Foxes have a reputation of being cunning, or sly. Now scientists think they have an uncanny ability to use Earth’s magnetic field to hunt their prey.

Amazing but True!

  • Earth has a magnetic field similar to that of a bar magnet. Many animals can detect the direction of Earth’s magnetic field and use it for migration or other purposes.
  • Credit: Image Editor
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/2821003840/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Earth's magnetic field creates the magnetosphere, which protects us from many dangerous solar particles [Figure2]

     

  • Foxes can detect the direction of Earth’s magnetic field like many other animals. However, they may also have the amazing ability to use Earth’s magnetic field to detect distance as well as direction. The fox is the first animal thought to have this ability.
  • Watch this short but impressive video to see how a fox locates and captures its prey: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP15zlyra3c

Explore More

Learn more about how foxes use Earth’s magnetic field at the link below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. How does a fox detect prey beneath the snow? How does it actually capture the prey?
  2. Evidence from field studies suggests that foxes use Earth’s magnetic field to sense direction. What is the nature of this evidence?
  3. How do foxes use Earth’s magnetic field to sense distance?
  4. What are some other animals that can sense and use Earth’s magnetic field?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Mivart, St. George Jackson; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keulemans_common_fox.png; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Image Editor; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/2821003840/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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