About 800,000 years ago, the Bat-eared Fox became a species of very ancient canines that were vastly distributed in the mid-Pleistocene era. Bat-eared foxes can only be found in the continent of Africa and are characterized by their bat-like ears that are oddly large.
This animal is known by several names, including Cape Fox, Long-eared Fox, Black-eared Fox, Delalande’s Fox, Motlosi, and Big-eared Fox.
- Scientific Name: Otocyon megalotis
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Canidae
- Genus: Otocyon
- Species: O. megalotis
- Size: Average length, including the head and the body, is 55 centimeters.
- Weight: They can weigh between 3 and 5.3 kg.
- Ears: The most noticeable features are its black, pointed ears that can measure about 13 cm each.
- Eyes: Bat-Eared Fox eyes are dark and almond-shaped.
- Fur/hair/coat: The body hair is a combination of copper-gray to tawny, while the legs and the tip of their thick, hairy tail are black.
- Teeth: Each tooth of the Bat-Eared Fox is very short in length, unlike most other jackal or fox species.
In the wild, a bat-eared fox can live for about 13 years, whereas as per (in captivity), they can live longer. The maximum lifespan recorded was 17 years.
Bat-eared Foxes are shared in two different regions of Africa – the eastern and the southern parts that include Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, East Africa, Samburu, and Kilimanjaro.
Habitat: Where do the Bat-eared Fox Live?
These foxes have mostly inhabited short-grass plains and the places where small arthropods, including beetles and termites, are abundantly available.
Classification of species
There are two identified subspecies of these foxes:
- Otocyon megalotis megalotis that dominate the southern part of Africa
- Otocyon megalotis virgatus are found in South Sudan down Tanzania and Ethiopia.
The Bat-eared Fox is naturally a nocturnal animal, with 85 percent of all its activities performed at nighttime. Having said that, this means that in South Africa, these animals are usually diurnal in winter and preponderantly active at night in summer.
In any given year in countries like South Africa, the summer months are more common.
A study made us understand that these fox families are very territorial and would inhabit home ranges of about 0.25 to as much as 1.5 sq km, and would mark their home range boundaries with their urine, quite much like many other wolves, coyotes, dogs, and foxes. Nonetheless, the population density may get up to 10 foxes per sq km.
A single-family or group comprises of a pair of both male and female adult Bat-Eared foxes. The couple usually lives in their own, single burrow, while resting, sleeping, resting, playing, foraging, assisting, grooming, and protecting each other, together.
Advantages of living in groups include;
- Increased chances of success in foraging
- Predators are easily detected
- Opportunity for baby foxes to get intimate with their parents and master what to eat and ways to get them
- There is power in number
All members in a family, or even outsiders, communicate with one another using their tail and ear movements. They would also use a wide variety of sounds and soft whistles.
The Bat-Eared foxes have nine calls, and seven of these calls are low-pitched and is used within family members.
Diet: What do Bat-eared Foxes eat?
The Bat-eared Foxes are primarily insectivorous. These canids’ diet mostly includes small invertebrates like spiders, termites, scorpions, ants, and crickets. However, the Bat-eared Foxes will also eat any other little birds, desert truffles, mammals, and even reptiles.
Mating and reproduction
How do the Bat-eared Foxes mate and reproduce?
These canines are generally monogamous, with a few exceptions that have been observed with one male living with two females bat-eared fox. Male Bat-eared Foxes would stay with its female partner(s) throughout the breeding season.
With their mating or breeding season falling between September and November, the Bat-eared foxes only breed around that time of the year.
They are known to raise their young ones in dens they dug themselves. Female bat-eared foxes give birth to about 2 to 6 babies at once, and commonly have a gestation period of 60 – 70 days.
The life cycle of the Bat-eared Fox baby
These exotic mammals are born without vision, but they naturally open their eyes when they are nine days old. When they are strong enough, around 17 days, they come out of their den.
Immediately after birth, the pups are sparsely covered with gray fur, and it takes about 4 to 5 weeks before they start growing adult colors. Papa bat-eared fox is more responsible than the mother.
Unlike the mothers, father Bat-Eared fox plays, grooms, and guards the baby even more. Father foxes stay to remain in the den with the babies after they are born. They provide security to the babies while the mothers go in search of food to help maintain milk production.
Baby foxes suckle their mother’s breasts for about 15 weeks before they forage with their parents for the first time. Both the male and female juvenile bat-eared foxes are fully grown after about 5 to 6 months, and they reach full maturity at 8 to 9 months.
As soon as breeding season approaches, most of the foxes siblings separate from each other, apart from some young females that may remain with their natal group.
Adaptations: How do the Bat-Eared foxes adapt?
Asides being called the bat-eared foxes, these babies have an enhanced sense of hearing.
Here are the reasons why:
- First, they are able to locate insects like ants and termites that emit sensitive sounds.
- They inhabit places infested by cunning predators; hence, the necessity of such an outstanding sense of audibility. Because of their fantastic sense of hearing, they are able to pick up the sounds of the movement of enemies.
In addition to their behavioral adaptation, play among young bat-eared foxes shows similarities to escape behavior. This is solely because, when they are mature enough, they tend to express escape behavior instead of fighting behavior.
The bat-eared foxes possess extra teeth. Their dentition pattern is set so they are able to eat insects thoroughly. Their lower jawbone is specialized to help the foxes open and close their mouth quickly and chew insects before they are able to escape.
Predators: What can eat a Bat-eared Fox?
The primary predators of the bat-eared fox are hyenas, eagles, and jackals.
Currently, there are no significant threats to the bat-eared foxes’ populations. The bat-eared Foxes has categorized by the IUCN 3.1 as “Less Concern” Unser the Red List
- In spite of their smaller size, the bat-eared foxes are able to outrun cheetahs and lions, which means they can run at a speed of more than 70 miles per hour.
- There is a record of communal nursing of a baby bat-eared fox.
- In a zoo, a pair of these bat-eared foxes mated ten times every day for an entire week.
- The species have been hunted by natives of Botswana and used commercially for their exotic fur.
- Bat-eared foxes play a critical role in the eco-system. They are essential to farmers in controlling the termite population.
- The family bat-eared fox at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park shares a common enclosure with a pair of warthogs since the two animals are found in the same wild habitat.
- Due to the smallness of their teeth, some researchers mistook them for a canid species that aren’t closely related to foxes.
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