Thursday, June 02, 2011

Island Fox and the Jerusalem Cricket

Island fox pups on the Channel Islands are now about 6 weeks old and about to emerge from the family den. Friends of the Island Fox's Twitter fox, Tani, is learning what to eat. Both the mother and father island fox bring food to their pups. Follow Tani's tweets in the black Twitter box on the right.

Island foxes are omnivorous, they eat both plant food and other animals. Insects are fairly easy to find and they are an important part of an island fox's diet. Jerusalem crickets are a favorite food for island foxes. This large insect can be found in the soil under native plants and it provides a protein-rich meal. Jerusalem crickets are also known as earth babies, nin├Ás de la tierra or potato bugs (but they don't eat potatoes).
Jerusalem cricket
The island fox, the Catalina cherry and the Jerusalem cricket all depend on each other. The island fox eats the Jerusalem cricket, but it also eats the fruit of the Catalina cherry. The seeds of this plant are too big for the finches and small birds to swallow. But the island fox does swallow some of the seeds and helps to disperse the cherry seeds across the island so new plants can grow. Fox Scat The Jerusalem cricket lives under the Catalina cherry plant and eats some of its roots and dead leaves on the ground. It is a decomposer helping create healthy soil where new plants can grow. The island fox, the Catalina cherry and the Jerusalem cricket are just a small part of the interconnected web of plants and animals on the Channel Islands.

The island fox has evolved to have very pointed teeth so it can pick up small insects. The teeth act like tweezers carefully picking up grasshoppers and crickets, while leaving twigs and leaves behind.

Island foxes also eat the native island deer mice, some small birds and their eggs. As summer comes to the island, fruit will start to play an important role in the what the foxes eat.

Follow along with Tani on Twitter or on Facebook as an island fox grows up.