The study shows that the fox may have been domesticated as a pet

Fox remains discovered in a human burial site in Argentina dating back 1,500 years raise the possibility that the animal may have been kept as a pet by these hunter-gatherer communities.

A fox, man’s best friend? The bones of a now-extinct species of fox have been discovered alongside human remains in a necropolis in Patagonia, Argentina. According to a study published Wednesday, April 10, in the journal Royal Society Open Science, this suggests that the animal may have been a pet of humans at the time.

Several clues, including the fact that it was buried with humans, suggest that it may have been considered a “symbolic animal for the community” or that it may have been buried with its owners as a guardian companion to these hunting communities.

A contemporary of hunter-gatherers

Discovered in 1991 in the pre-Hispanic Cañada Seca burial site, these bones date back 1,500 years, long before the arrival of domestic dogs in Patagonia.

The fox Dusicyon Avus was about the size of a German shepherd. According to the researchers of this study, it is difficult to be sure that the animal was buried at the same time as the humans. In all cases, however, the team’s dating suggests that the fox was indeed a contemporary of the humans present at the site.

Furthermore, the state of preservation of the bones suggests that the animal’s body was deliberately buried and that there are no signs of eating it. “This suggests that (the fox) was placed there at the same time as the other human remains,” Ophélie Lebrasseur of the University of Oxford, a co-author of the paper, said in comments reported by The Guardian.

Same diet

The research team also analyzed the fox’s diet. Although these animals are generally carnivorous, this animal was found to have had a similar diet to the humans buried at the site, and even consumed plants, possibly corn.

“Either he was fed directly by humans or he was feeding on garbage, but he was close to this place,” Ophélie Lebrasseur explains.

This new study confirms another report of a burial site in the province of Buenos Aires, where the remains of a fox of the same species from the late second millennium BC were discovered next to the burials of a hunter-gatherer community.

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