Red Fox

Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are the largest of all foxes and live in many diverse habitats around the world, including forests, grasslands, mountains, deserts and even human environments. They generally have a red or brown colored fur, with traces of white on their chin, throat, chest and tail. Red foxes are omnivores with a highly variable diet, feeding on rodents, rabbits, birds and other small animals, as well as plants, fruits and human leftovers, depending on availability. The animals are most active between dusk and dawn, and while they typically forage on their own, red foxes are known to live together in pairs or in small families. They breed in winter, after which the females, or vixens, give birth to litters of up to twelve pups in spring. The young foxes are raised by both parents and may leave the litter in the following fall to establish their own territory if conditions are favorable, or stay behind to help raise subsequent litters. Because of their inventiveness and ability to adapt to new environments, foxes have traditionally been associated with intelligence and cunning.

Information sources: National Geographic, WWF

Image: Red fox sniffing the air in the grasslands of San Juan, Washington, USA. Credit: Minette Layne, Wikimedia Commons.

Mount Everest, Himalayas, Nepal and China

With a summit at 8848 meters, Mount Everest is the highest mountain peak on Earth. It is located in the Himalayas on the border between Nepal and China and is surrounded by several other high peaks, including the Lhotse, Nuptse and Changtse. The lower part of Mount Everest consists of metamorphic rocks such as schists and gneisses, as well as numerous granite intrusions. The middle part of the mountain consists of schists, phyllites and marbles with a lesser metamorphic grade, while the upper part of the mountain is mostly characterized by a succession of limestones and siltstones. Mount Everest and the Himalayas have been formed by the continental collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates in the Cenozoic.

Information source: Sagarmatha National Park Service

Image: Mount Everest in the Himalayas as seen from Tibet, China. Credit: Luca Galuzzi, Wikimedia Commons.

Monte Fitz Roy, Andes, Argentina and Chile

Monte Fitz Roy, also known as Cerro Chaltén, is a mountain in the Andes, located near the village of El Chaltén in Patagonia along the Argentina and Chile border. The summit of Monte Fitz Roy reaches a height of 3405 meters, but is generally covered in clouds. While it is not as high as other mountain peaks in the Andes, it is especially notorious among mountaineers for its jagged peaks and sheer granite faces.

Information source: Los Glaciares National Park Service

Image: Monte Fitz Roy in the Andes along the Argentina and Chile border. Credit: Todor Bozhinov, Wikimedia Commons.

The Matterhorn, Alps, Switzerland

The Matterhorn is an iconic mountain peak in the Swiss Alps whose summit reaches a height of 4478 meters. The base and lower part of the mountain consist of successive layers of ophiolites and sedimentary rocks, whereas the rocks of the upper part consist of a series of gneisses.

Information source: Encyclopaedia Brittannica, Wikipedia

Image: The Matterhorn in the Alps, Switzerland. Credit: Zacharie Grossen, Wikimedia Commons.

Mont Blanc, Alps, France

The Mont Blanc is the highest mountain peak in the Alps with a summit that rises up to 4810 meters on the borders between France, Italy and Switzerland. The mountain is always covered in snow and ice and is surrounded by several shoulder peaks, including the Dôme du Goûter, Mont Maudit and Mont Blanc du Tacul. The Glacier du Geant flows down from the slopes of the mountain and feeds into the Mer de Glace, the longest glacier in France.

Information source: Encyclopaedia Brittannica, Wikipedia

Image: Summit of Dôme du Goûter and Mont Blanc in the Alps, France. Credit: Alexandre Bruisse, Wikimedia Commons.

The Alps, Southern Europe

The Alps are a great mountain range in Europe, ranging across France and Switzerland in the west, Germany in the north, Austria and Slovenia in the east and Italy in the South. They have been formed as a result of the collision between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, which occurred in the late Mesozoic and Cenozoic. During the Alpine orogeny, marine sedimentary rocks of the Tethys Sea were thrusted and folded into high mountain peaks, among which are the Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.

Information source: Encyclopaedia Brittannica, Wikipedia

Image: Peaks of Aiguilles de Chamonix in the Alps, France. Credit: Simo Räsänen, Wikimedia Commons.

New details on the uplift history of the Tibetan Plateau

Research of geologists published in GSA Bulletin has revealed new information regarding the uplift history of the Tibetan Plateau, at present the highest elevated mountain range on Earth (~ 4.5 km). The scientists have reconstructed lake paleotemperatures for the Miocene and Pliocene by using clumped isotope thermometry, based on carbonate shells from gastropods in two well-studied basins in central and southwestern Tibet. Their results show that between the late Miocene and early Pliocene, paleotemperatures were up to 9 °C colder than during the mid-Pliocene and younger. Since paleotemperature records reflect changes in both climate and elevation, the scientists estimate that the Tibetan Plateau must have reached an even higher paleoelevation (~ 5.4 km) than at present. This fits well with paleontological and isotopic data from the Miocene-Pliocene indicating the presence of cold-adapted mammals in a cold, high-elevation climate.

Journal reference: Huntington, K. W., Saylor, J., Quade, J., & Hudson, A. M. (2015). High late Miocene–Pliocene elevation of the Zhada Basin, southwestern Tibetan Plateau, from carbonate clumped isotope thermometry. Geological Society of America Bulletin127(1-2), 181-199.

Image: North face of Mount Everest as seen from Tibet, China. Source: Luca Galuzzi, Wikimedia Commons.