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Bat-Eared Fox

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Description

Their basic body color is greyish brown, with black legs and ears, a black stripe on their tail, and a black mask around their eyes and muzzle. They have a small, pointed muzzle and a broad forehead. Their ears are rather large, and can be 5 inches (12 cm) long. Large ears are characteristic of many desert mammals, and it is believed that they help to dissipate heat. They also have unusual teeth for a canid. Because they eat mostly insects, they have extra molars to help grind the hard casing. They can have as many as four upper molars, and 5 lower molars, totaling up to 50 teeth all together, at least 6-8 more than other species of canid. They have four mammae. Distribution

The bat eared fox occurs in two distinct populations, one in east Africa in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan; and one in southern Africa. They tend to prefer the grasslands and semi desert arid regions. Diet

This fox eats mostly insects. Termites make up half their diet, 40% are beetles, and less than 10% are mice and lizards. They rely mostly on hearing to locate their prey. They pursue grasshoppers and winged insects by leaping after them in the air, they eat termites by licking them up with their tongue, and they catch lizards by dashing after them. Reproduction and Lifecycle

There does not seem to be a set breeding season. They breed once a year, and the cubs are usually born at the beginning of the rainy season. The female comes into estrus for just one day. The male fox has a bone in his penis called the baculum, and at the base of this is a ring that swells when they mate, locking them together. After initial mounting and thrusting, the male dismounts and turns around, sill tied to the female in a copulatory tie. During this time, the male ejaculates several times. After a while, the swelling goes down and they untie. Bat eared foxes may mate up to 10 times.

Bat eared foxes couple off and stay together for many years, and often raise their young in the same den year after year, but more often dig their own dens every year. The gestation period is around 10 weeks, and four to six cubs are born. They are born with their eyes and ears closed. Their eyes open at 9 days old, and they come out of the den at 17 days old. There is a high instance of infant mortality in this species; there are only four nipples, so the mother may kill some of her offspring so that the remaining four cubs have a better chance of survival. Weaning begins at a month old, with the mother leaving food at the den's entrance. The male helps out with raising the offspring by guarding the den site while his mate forages for food. At six months old, the kits are fully grown, and will leave their parents. Some females stay with their parents for a few years. Social behavior

Bat eared foxes are monogamous and live in non-territorial pairs or trios (1 male, 2 females). It is not known if they mate for life, but they are often seen together in pairs or small family groups. Pairs are often seen sleeping together in burrows, mutually groom each other, play, and protect and help each other out. When their prey is abundant, there may be several foxes in the same area, often within a few feet of each other. Since they do not have set territories, this does not seem to bother them. In instances where a male lived with two females, the two females cared for and suckled each other's young.

In some areas of their range , they are nocturnal, and in others they are diurnal (daytime). They are not territorial, but do have home ranges that can be from one tenth of a mile to one half of a mile square. The area where they stay changes from year to year depending on the availability of food. Threats

They are hunted by native peoples for their pelts and meat. They are not endangered, and don't appear to be threatened. They have actually benefited from humans. Clearing of dense grasslands have encouraged the proliferation of termites, which the bat-eared fox feeds primarily on. Taxiomic Note

The species name for the bat-eared fox, megalotis, means “big ears” in Greek (“mega” means big and “otis” means ear). The genus name, Otocyon, is derived from the Greek words “oto” for ear and “cyon” for dog. Thus, their name doubly refers to their ears, and basically means “big eared dog”.

This fox has been placed by some authorities in its own subfamily, Otocyoninae, because of its unusual dentition. Sub Species

   *
     O. m. megalotis – Northern subspecies
   *
     O. m. virgatus – Southern subspecies

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