December 15, 2009

Fennec Fox

<em>Fennecus zerda</em>

The fennec fox is the smallest of all the world's foxes, but its large ears, measuring 6 inches (15 centimeters), appear to be on loan from a bigger relative.

Fennec foxes dwell in the sandy Sahara and elsewhere in North Africa. Their nocturnal habits help them deal with the searing heat of the desert environment, and some physical adaptations help as well.

Their distinctive, batlike ears radiate body heat and help keep the foxes cool. They also have long, thick hair that insulates them during cold nights and protects them from hot sun during the day. Even the fox's feet are hairy, which helps them perform like snowshoes and protects them from extremely hot sand. The fox's feet are also effective shovels for frequent digging—fennec foxes live in underground dens.

These foxes dwell in small communities, each inhabited by perhaps ten individuals. Like other canids, male fennecs mark their territory with urine and become aggressive competitors when mating season arrives each year.

Fennec foxes are opportunistic eaters. They forage for plants but also eat rodents, eggs, reptiles, and insects. Like most desert dwellers, the fennec fox has developed the ability to go for long periods without water.

These foxes are cream-colored with black-tipped tails. Their adorable appearance makes them favorites of the captive pet trade, and local peoples also hunt the fennec fox for its fur. Little is known about the status of wild fennec fox populations.

Nat Geo TV App

The Nat Geo TV App

Watch your favorite National Geographic Channel shows the day after they air.

Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play