Effects of food supplementation on parental behaviour and cub survival in foxes (Vulpes vulpes)

A completed 12 month MSc by research by Rita Torres.

For more information on foxes visit our new website:

Logo and link to The Fox Website

Canids are unusual amongst mammals in that both males and females cooperate to rear their offspring, compared to the typical pattern of uniparental female care. The origin of parental care in the Canidae is, therefore, of considerable interest.

Two hypotheses for the evolutionary advantages of male care are that (i) it acts to reduce the energy female's expenditure and/or (ii) it acts to increase cub survival. Whilst nutritionally dependent the cubs are confined to a den and the parents are potentially limited in the degree to which they can find large prey items that they can profitably transport back to the den (i.e. central place foraging). Under these conditions male care could act to reduce the number of provisioning trips required by the female and/or increase the absolute amount of food delivered to the cubs.

To examine this aspect of their behaviour, we are using a food experiment, giving some fox families extra food to see how this affects the parent's behaviour and whether increases cub survival, in a population of foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in Bristol, U.K.

Contact details

Rita Torres
School of Biological Sciences
University of Bristol
Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 1UG, U.K.

Tel: 0117 9287593
Email: Rita Torres