The Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda) is a small nocturnal fox found along the northern rim of the Sahara Desert of North Africa and across the Arabian peninsula. Its most distinctive feature is its 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; its 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 12 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 fenek, 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.
(From Wikipedia, May 19th, 2010)
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