Beauty Of Animals | The Beauty Of The Fennec Fox | The Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda) is a small nocturnal fox found in the Sahara of North Africa. Its most distinctive feature is unusually large ears. The name "Fennec" comes from the Arabic word for fox, and the species name zerda has a Greek origin that refers to its habitat. The Fennec is the smallest species of canid in the world; coat, ears and kidney functions have adapted to a high-temperature, low-water, desert environment. In addition, its hearing is sensitive enough to hear prey moving underground.
The Fennec has a life span of up to 10 years in the wild; its main predators include the Caracal and the African varieties of Eagle Owl. Families of Fennecs dig out dens in sand for habitation and protection, which can be as large as 120 m2 (1,292 sq ft) and adjoin the dens of other families. Precise population figures are not known but are estimated from the frequency of sightings; these indicate that the animal is currently not threatened by extinction. Knowledge of social interactions is limited to information gathered from captive animals. The species is usually assigned to the genus Vulpes; however, this is debated due to differences between the Fennec Fox and other fox species. The Fennec's fur is prized by the indigenous peoples of North Africa, and in some parts of the world, the animal is considered an exotic pet.
The Fennec Fox weighs about 1.5–3.5 lb (0.68–1.6 kg), with a body length of between 24–40 cm (9–16 in); it is around 20.3 cm (8 in) tall. It is the smallest species of canid in the world. The tail has a black tip and is around three quarters of the length of the head and body, while the ears can be between 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) long. Its name comes from the Arabic word fanak, which means fox, and the species name zerda comes from the Greek word xeros which means dry, referring to the fox's habitat.
The coat is often a cream color and fluffy, which deflects heat during the day and keeps the fox warm at night. The Fennec's characteristic ears are the largest among all foxes relative to body size, and serve to dissipate heat, as they have many blood vessels close to the skin. The ears of a Fennec are sensitive enough to hear prey that may be underground the soles of its feet are protected from the hot desert sand by thick fur.
"A greyscale sketch of a group of long eared foxes on a rocky outcrop in a desert. There is a crumbling brick building to the left and two of the foxes are on lookout." An 1876 sketch of a pack of Fennec Foxes Information on Fennec Fox social behaviour is mainly based on captive animals. The basic social unit is thought to be a mated pair and their offspring, and the young of the previous year are believed to remain in the family even after a new litter is born. Playing behaviour is common, including among adults of the species.
Captive animals engage in highly social behaviour, typically resting while in contact with each other. Males tend to show more aggression and urine-marking around the time of the females' estrous cycle. They have been seen to bury feces by pushing soil with their noses or hind feet when in captivity. Much remains unknown of their basic ecology and behavior in the wild, and a 2004 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature stated that "in-depth study of the species, with particular emphasis on habitat use and population dynamics in the wild, is overdue."
Diet and hunting
The Fennec Fox is a nocturnal omnivore. Food sources include rodents, insects, birds and eggs. An individual can jump up to 2 ft (61 cm) high and 4 ft (120 cm) forward, which helps it catch prey and escape predators. When hunting, large eared foxes such as the Fennec, or the Bat-eared Fox, can seem to stare at the ground while they rotate their heads from side to side to pinpoint the location of prey, either underground or hidden above ground. The species is able to live without free water, as its kidneys are adapted to restrict water loss. A Fennec's burrowing can cause the formation of dew. They are also known to absorb water through food consumption; but will drink water if available.
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