Many have heard about the amazing eared inhabitant of Africa. Fennec fox — one of the most unusual animals. Very agile and active. The smallest fox is somewhat smaller than a domestic cat, but with large ears. With a cute face and beautiful colors. Fenech is able to survive in the harsh conditions of the hot desert.
Origin of the species and description
Fennec fox, as a species belongs to the order of predators, the family of canines, the genus of foxes. The name of the animal came from fanak, which literally means «fox» in Arabic. First of all, fenki stand out for their small size and disproportionately large ears. Experts, given this specific appearance of the animal, often distinguish a separate genus for it, called Fennecus.
With the development of science, it became known that the fennec fox has fewer chromosomes than many foxes, which justifies the allocation of a separate one to a separate genus. In addition, they lack musk glands, unlike foxes. They also differ in their way of life and social structure.
The name of the species in Latin Vulpes (and sometimes Fennecus) zerda literally means «dry fox». The name arose due to the fact that the fennec fox lives in arid desert regions. The fennec is genetically related to the big-eared fox, which has a common ancestor with it. The fennec fox diverged from common foxes about 4.5 million years ago. At the same time, many common morphological features with foxes and representatives of other “fox-like” species are explained by parallel evolution.
Appearance and features
The fennec fox is distinguished by its small body size. These foxes weigh only 1.5 kg, like small domestic cats. The height of the animal is quite small, about 20 centimeters at the withers. The length of the body varies from 30 to 40 centimeters, plus the length of the tail takes almost the same amount. The paws of the animal are quite short and very reminiscent of a cat. Interestingly, the pads of the fingers are covered with fur on the paws. This allows fennec foxes to roam the hot surface of the desert earth or sand during the day.
Video: Fennec fox
The muzzle of the animal as a whole resembles a fox, but it is shorter, with a sharp narrowing closer to the nose. Fenki's ears are very interesting: they are huge compared to the total size of the fox, wide, but thin. Disproportionately large ears are necessary to keep the animal from overheating. Such sizes are necessary for the ears to organize the thermoregulation of the body, since desert chanterelles do not have sweat glands. In addition, due to the large ear area, the hearing of these foxes is very well developed, and it allows them to hear any sounds of their potential prey in the sand.
The teeth of the animal are small and very sharp. Therefore, the fennec fox is able to thoroughly chew the chitinous cover of insects. On the back, the color of the fur is red, on the muzzle and paws it is lighter, to white. Cubs are much lighter than adults, darkening with age. Wool covers the entire body. It is thick and rather long both on the body and on the legs. On the tail, the hair is even longer, so it visually greatly increases its volume. In general, the fur gives the impression that the fennecs are much larger than they are. Outwardly, it seems that the fennec fox is heavier than its one and a half kilograms.
Where does the fennec fox live?
For fennec, its natural habitat is the zone of deserts, semi-deserts and steppes. It is accustomed to vast expanses with rare precipitation of no more than 300 mm per year, covered mainly with sand or stones, and areas with sparse vegetation. Sand dunes can be considered ideal landscapes.
Due to its habitat, the fennec fox is also called the desert fox. The lack of water does not scare him. These animals, of course, do not like to walk on a hot surface, so they are active at dusk. They try to dig their shelters near the sparse desert vegetation.
For example, the roots of a shrub are quite suitable for digging a hole among its roots. The burrows of Fenkov foxes are special: they have several passages and branches. Approximately in the middle between them, fenks line their bed with straw, dust, fur or feathers. If an uninvited guest enters one of the passages, the animal can leave the shelter through another exit.
The habitat of the desert fox is small compared to the ranges of other foxes that have spread to almost all continents. Fenech lives in North Africa at least 14 ° N. in its inaccessible areas and on the Arabian Peninsula.
You can meet the animal in several countries:
- Republic of Chad;
- Israel .
The largest populations of desert foxes are found in the Sahara desert.
An interesting fact: the fennec fox is a sedentary animal, it does not change its habitat even with a change seasons.
What does the fennec fox eat?
Fennie foxes are illegible in food. It has to do with where they live. In the deserts, there is no choice, so they eat whatever they can find. So, any dug roots can serve as both a source of nutrients and a source of a small amount of moisture. All the fruits and berries found are also used by fennels for food, but there are few of them in the deserts, so they are not the main food of foxes. A feature of the animal is that it can be without water for a very long time, and it receives the necessary liquid from the eaten berries and plants.
It is not for nothing that nature endowed Fenki with such huge ears. Together with excellent hearing, they catch any rustles made by even the smallest vertebrates and insects in the sand or underground, so they quickly tear them apart and then chew them.
They eat with pleasure:
- small rodents (vole mouse);
Also, the animal loves to eat eggs. Very often, the fennec fox eats the remains of someone else's prey and animals that died a natural death. Carrion can even become the most abundant meal, especially if the remains of a large animal were found.
An interesting fact: the fennec fox saves excess food in reserve, but unlike the same squirrels, the fennec fox remembers perfectly your hiding places and their locations.
Character and lifestyle features
Fenechs are very playful and inquisitive. But at the same time, they are very cautious and secretive. During the day, they are usually energetic and very active about 15% of the time, calm and relaxed about 20%, and the rest of the time they are sound asleep.
It is believed that Fennec's favorite activities are — it's burrowing and jumping. For example, while hunting, he is able to jump up almost 70 centimeters. In addition, the length of his jump can reach one and a half meters, which is quite a lot for his small size.
Hunting, like all the rest of the main activity of the animal, occurs mainly at night, when the ambient temperature drops to acceptable values. Among the features of desert foxes, it can be noted that their thick fur protects, although it protects from the cold, but the fennec fox begins to freeze even at +20 degrees Celsius, which manifests itself in the fact that it begins to shiver from the cold. Fenech tries to hunt alone.
To protect from the sun, the fennec fox may dig a new shelter every night. He digs holes so easily that during the night without visible effort he is able to dig a tunnel up to six meters long. A fennec fox can dig into the sand not only for protection from the sun, but also if it senses any danger. Moreover, he is able to dig in so quickly that it would seem that the animal was just here, and now it cannot be found, as if it was not there right away. They look out of the minks slowly, at first they move their ears, listen carefully, sniff the air, and only then little by little they stick out from under the sand.
They have very well developed night vision. The general visual acuity is increased due to the presence of a special reflective retina, which helps, as it were, to highlight the observed objects. At night, the look is very similar to a cat's, with the exception that in cats we are used to seeing a green reflection of light from the eyes, and in fennies, the eyes glow red.
Social structure and reproduction
Fenky foxes — they are social animals. They usually live in small groups of up to 10 individuals. Groups are formed on a family basis and usually consist of one full-fledged married couple, their pre-pubescent offspring, and, sometimes, several more older children who have not formed their own clans. Each group occupies its own specific territory, the boundaries of which are marked with urine and excrement. Dominant males in the group urinate more and more frequently than other individuals. Desert Foxes — active defenders of their litter and their territory.
Fenks are very sociable. Like other social animals, they use several forms of communication — and visual, and tactile, and, of course, the sense of smell. Of particular importance in maintaining the hierarchy and social structure in the group are games. The nature of the games can change within one day, as well as by season. Animals have highly developed vocalizations. Both adults and puppies, in order to communicate with each other, can make chirping sounds, sounds similar to whimpering, they can bark, whine, growl and squeal. Fennec's howl is short, but loud at the same time.
Fenki — they are monogamous animals. During the breeding season, which usually lasts for 4-6 weeks, males become more aggressive, and at the same time they begin to actively mark their sites with urine. Breeding occurs once a year, usually in January-February. If the offspring died for some reason, then adults can re-give birth to more puppies, which often happens if there is an abundant food supply.
Fenok males are excellent fathers. They help the female protect her cubs, but the female does not allow them to contact the pups until they themselves begin to play near the entrance to their den. This usually happens at the age of about five to six weeks. The male brings food to the burrow. Due to the fact that the female behaves aggressively and protects her puppies from it, the male does not enter the den, but leaves food nearby.
The rutting period of fenks occurs for two months. But at the same time, estrus does not last long in females — just two days. The female to understand the males about her readiness for mating by the position of the tail. She takes him to a horizontal position in one direction.
Fennec fox's natural enemies
Fenki — they are quite dexterous and nimble animals, leading their activity at night. In the wild, they have practically no enemies. Potential enemies include jackals, hyenas, and sand foxes, whose habitats overlap with those of the Fennec fox. But their threats are only indirect. Excellent hearing allows fennecs to detect an outsider in advance and hide from him in their lair.
The main enemy of the fennec is the eagle owl, which, despite the brilliance of the fennec and its speed, is able to hunt the desert fox. The eagle owl flies silently, so it can grab an unsuspecting cub near the hole, even though its parents may be nearby at that moment.
Also, the desert lynx — caracal, but there is only indirect evidence for this, since none of the people saw eyewitnesses of his hunt for fennel. In fact, the only real enemies of the desert fox are humans and small parasites such as helminths.
Population and species status
Current view status — it is the one of least concern. The total number of desert foxes in nature has never been accurately estimated by anyone. But judging by how often the animal is found, and the number of individuals constantly caught by local residents, the number of Fenki is significant, and their population is in a stable state. About 300 individuals are kept in zoos around the world. Also, a lot of animals are kept as pets.
There are no serious reasons for reducing the total number of animals at the moment. However, the areas around the Sahara desert, like many other previously uninhabited arid regions, are gradually being developed by humans, which increases the risks for some populations. For example, in the south of Morocco, in the places where new settlements were built, the fennec fox disappeared. Animals are objects of permitted hunting. They are mined mainly for their fur. But they are also often caught to be resold as pets in North America or Europe.