A new study has found that arctic foxes store eggs for up to a year to protect against lean times.
The study of arctic foxes in Karrak Lake in the Nunavut territory of northern Canada found evidence of foxes stashing between 2,000 and 3,000 goose eggs as a backup food supply in case their preferred food of lemmings is unavailable.
According to study author Gustaf Samelius, “It appears as if cached eggs are used as a backup for unpredictable changes in lemming numbers. This is a neat adaptation in an environment where food abundance changes dramatically both among seasons and years.”
This behavior had long been suspected by biologists, who frequently found eggshell in fox scat. This behavior is original among carnivores. Some meat-eaters do store food, but only for very short periods of time and very infrequently. In arctic foxes these stored eggs accounted for anywhere between 28% and 74% of their diet depending on availability of other food.
Eggs are a good food source for storage because of the protective shell and the anti-microbial properties of certain substances within the egg whites.
Foxes were also observed moving the eggs from one storage place to another fairly frequently. Scientists think that this behavior relates to the way the animals memorize the locations of their stored eggs.
Source: National Geographic
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