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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 17 years (captivity) Observations: They are full grown in half a year (Ronald Nowak 1999). One wild caught specimen was about 17 years old when it died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

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Bat eared foxes are usually monogamous; a few observations have suggested that sometimes there may be two females with one male, and one record exists of communal nursing (Macdonald, 1984).

Mating System: monogamous

Bat-eared foxes breed annually, in self-dug dens. Pups' eyes open at 9 days and they emerge from the den at 17 days. Newborns are sparsely covered with gray underfur and change to adult color by 4-5 weeks. Offspring are suckled for 15 weeks before beginning to forage with their parents. Pups are full grown by 5 or 6 months.After reaching maturity, most disperse at the breeding season. Some young females may stay with their natal group and breed. Males participate in guarding, grooming, and playing with the young as much as or even more than the mother. Mating behavior has not been described in the wild, but in a zoo, a pair mated 10 times a day for a week (Estes, 1991). The female showed no estrous swelling. The male followed the female intently, licking her vulva and periodically mounted. After intromission, the pair remained tied, as in many canids (Estes, 1991).

Breeding season: September to November

Range number of offspring: 2 to 6.

Average number of offspring: 3.2.

Range gestation period: 60 to 70 days.

Range weaning age: 30 (low) days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 8 to 9 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8 to 9 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 122 g.

Average number of offspring: 4.

Parental Investment: altricial ; extended period of juvenile learning

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Untitled

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Otocyon megalotis is the only species in the genus Otocyon.

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Conservation Status

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CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Benefits

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There is no apparent commercial use of bat-eared foxes, but they are hunted in Botswana for their pelts by indigenous people.

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Trophic Strategy

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Their diet primarily consists of insects and other arthropods, and occasionally small rodents, lizards, the eggs and chicks of birds, and plant matter. The Harvester termite (Hodotermes) and dung beetles (Scarabidae) can make up 80 percent of the fox's diet (Macdonald, 1984). According to Delany and Happold (1979), bat-eared foxes obtain much of their water from the body fluids of these insects. The termites often feed on grass above ground, where they are then eaten by the foxes. Because large herbivores such as wildebeest, zebra and buffalo also feed on this grass, bat-eared foxes are usually found near large herds of these hoofed animals. Furthermore, bat-eared foxes are also associated with these mammals since they eat the dung beetles that feed on and lay eggs in the ungulate's feces. The foxes use their large ears to listen for beetle larvae gnawing their way out of the dung balls (Macdonald, 1984). Bat-eared foxes usually forage alone. However, where insect prey is abundant, bat-eared foxes may occur in very high densities. They can actually harvest more termites by foraging in a group than if they hunted separately over the same ground at the same time (Estes, 1991).

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Distribution

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Two populations are known, one from Ethiopia and southern Sudan to Tanzania; the other from southern Angola and Rhodesia to South Africa.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Habitat

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Bat-eared foxes are found in arid grasslands and savannas, preferring areas where the grass is short. They are capable diggers and live in dens that are dug by the foxes themselves or those left by other animals such as aardvarks. Dens have multiple entrances and chambers and several meters of tunnels. A family may have several dens in its home range.

Habitat Regions: terrestrial

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Life Expectancy

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One captive individual lived for 13 years and 9 months.

Range lifespan
Status: captivity:
14 (high) years.

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
13.8 years.

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
6.0 years.

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Morphology

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The bat-eared fox's name comes from its enormous ears, which are 114 to 135 mm long. The body is generally yellow-brown; the throat and underparts are pale; the outsides of the ears, raccoon-like "face-mask," lower legs, feet, and tail tip are black. Besides the large ears, the bat-eared fox is set apart from other foxes by its unique dentition. It has more teeth than any other heterodont placental mammal with a total between 46 and 50 (Nowak, 1983). Whereas in all other canids there are no more than two upper and three lower molars, the bat-eared fox has at least three upper and four lower molars. On the lower jaw, a large step-like protrusion anchors the large digastric muscle that is used for rapid chewing of insects. The legs are relatively short.

Range mass: 3 to 5.3 kg.

Range length: 460 to 660 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Thomson, P. 2002. "Otocyon megalotis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Otocyon_megalotis.html
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Associations

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To escape from predators, the bat-eared fox relies on speed and its incredible dodging ability. It can effectively reverse direction at a flat run without losing speed (Estes, 1991).

Bat-eared foxes are susceptible to predators down to the size of jackals and eagles. Diurnal birds of prey generally represent the greatest threat for young bat-eared foxes (Estes, 1991).

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The Bat eared fox according to MammalMAP

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Bat eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis) are rare canids.They’ve pretty muchabandonedtheir mammalian prey in favour of an insectivorous diet.The most outstanding feature of this small, tawny mammal is its huge ears in relation to its body.These ears make it possible to home in on sounds of insect activity.Their teeth are adapted for their diet too.Bat eared foxes have many small teeth, approximately46 – 50, great for munching on critters.

Bat eared foxes are mainlynocturnaland rest in their burrows during the day.Their diet consists of mostly insects (harvester termites and beetles) but in the absence of insects, they also feed on birds, eggs, non-insect arthropods, lizards and small mammals.Insects not only fulfil their nutrient intake but fulfil their water requirements as well.

Bat eared foxes form social groups similar to our own – consisting of a mating pair and their offspring.Adult foxes are usuallymonogamousand breed annually resulting in 2 – 5 cubs born between October and January.Both parents are highly invested in rearing its young.Fatherswill guard the pups at the den while their mother is out foraging.Individuals in the group engage often in social grooming and play.They will also sleep together in the den.After reaching full maturity, most offspring disperse at the start ofbreeding season.

According to theIUCN, bat eared foxes are classified as a species of Least Concern.

For more information on MammalMAP, visit the MammalMAPvirtual museumorblog.

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Bat-eared fox

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 src=
Bat Eared Fox at Masai Mara National Reserve

The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is a species of fox found on the African savanna, named for its large ears,[4] which are used for thermoregulation.[3] Fossil records show this canid first appeared during the middle Pleistocene, about 800,000 years ago.[4] It is considered a basal canid species, resembling ancestral forms of the family, It has also been called a Sub-Saharan African version of a Fennec Fox due to their huge ears.[5]

The bat-eared fox (also referred to as Delalande's fox,[6] long-eared fox,[6] big-eared fox, and black-eared fox) has tawny fur with black ears, legs, and parts of the pointed face. It averages 55 centimetres (22 in) in length (head and body), with ears 13 centimetres (5.1 in) long. It is the only species in the genus Otocyon.[1] The name Otocyon is derived from the Greek words otus for ear and cyon for dog, while the specific name megalotis comes from the Greek words mega for large and otus for ear. [3]

Range and distribution

Two allopatric populations (subspecies) occur in Africa. O. m. virgatus occurs from Ethiopia and southern Sudan to Tanzania. The other population, O. m. megalotis, occurs in the southern part of Africa. It ranges from southern Zambia and Angola to South Africa, and extends as far east as Mozambique and Zimbabwe, spreading into the Cape Peninsula and toward Cape Agulhas. Home ranges vary in size from 0.3 to 3.5 km2.[3]

Habitat

The bat-eared fox commonly inhabits short grasslands, as well as the more arid regions of the savanna. It prefers bare ground and areas where grass is kept short by grazing ungulates.[3] It tends to hunt in these short grass and low shrub habitats. However, it does venture into areas with tall grasses and thick shrubs to hide when threatened.[7]

In addition to raising their young in dens, bat-eared foxes use self-dug dens for shelter from extreme temperatures and winds. They also lie under acacia trees in South Africa to seek shade during the day.[3]

Diet

 src=
Skull of a bat eared fox

The bat-eared fox is predominantly an insectivore that uses its large ears to locate its prey. About 80–90% of their diet is harvester termites (Hodotermes mossambicus). When this particular species of termite is not available, they feed on other species of termites and have also been observed consuming other arthropods such as ants, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, millipedes, moths, scorpions, spiders, and rarely birds, small mammals, reptiles, and fungi (the desert truffle Kalaharituber pfeilii[8]). The insects they eat fulfill the majority of their water intake needs. The bat-eared fox refuses to feed on snouted harvester termites, likely because it is not adapted to tolerate termites' chemical defense.[3]

Dentition

The teeth of the bat-eared fox are much smaller and reduced in shearing surface formation than teeth of other canid species. This is an adaptation to its insectivorous diet.[9] Due to its unusual teeth, the bat-eared fox was once considered as a distinct subfamily of canids (Otocyoninae). However, according to more recent examinations, it is more closely related to the true foxes of the genus Vulpes. Other research places the genus as an outgroup which is not very closely related to foxes.[10] The bat-eared fox is an old species that was widely distributed in the Pleistocene era. The teeth are not the bat-eared fox's only morphological adaptation for its diet. The lower jaw has a step-like protrusion called the subangular process, which anchors the large muscle to allow for rapid chewing. The digastric muscle is also modified to open and close the jaw five times per second.[3]

Foraging

Bat-eared foxes usually hunt in groups, mostly in pairs and groups of three. Individuals forage alone after family groups break in June or July and during the months after cub birth. Prey is located primarily by auditory means, rather than by smell or sight. Foraging patterns vary between seasons and coincide with termite availability. In the midsummer, individuals begin foraging at sunset, continuing throughout the night, and fading into the early morning. Foraging is almost exclusively diurnal during the winter it usually occurs in patches, which match the clumped prey resources, such as termite colonies, that also occur in patches. Groups are able to forage on clumps of prey in patches because they do not fight each other for food due to their degree of sociality and lack of territoriality.[7]

Behavior

In the more northern areas of its range (around Serengeti), they are nocturnal 85% of the time. However, around South Africa, they are nocturnal only in the summer and diurnal during the winter.[11]

Bat-eared foxes are highly social animals. They often live in pairs or groups of up to 15 individuals, and home ranges of groups either overlap substantially or very little. Individuals forage, play, and rest together in a group, which helps in protection against predators. Social grooming occurs throughout the year, mostly between mature adults, but also between young adults and mature adults.[3]

 src=
Threat display of bat-eared fox

Visual displays are very important in communication among bat-eared foxes. When they are looking intently at something, the head is held high, eyes are open, ears are erect and facing forward, and the mouth is closed. When an individual is in threat or showing submission, the ears are pulled back and lying against the head and the head is low. The tail also plays a role in communication. When an individual is asserting dominance or aggression, feeling threatened, playing, or being sexually aroused, the tail is arched in an inverted U shape. Individuals can also use piloerection, which occurs when individual hairs are standing straight, to make it appear larger when faced with extreme threat. When running, chasing, or fleeing, the tail is straight and horizontal. The bat-eared fox can recognize individuals up to 30 m away. The recognition process has three steps: First they ignore the individual, then they stare intently, and finally they either approach or attack without displays. When greeting another, the approaching individual shows symbolic submission which is received by the other individual with a high head and tail down. Few vocalizations are used for communication, but contact calls and warning calls are used, mostly during the winter. Glandular secretions and scratching, other than for digging, are absent in communication.[3]

Reproduction

The bat-eared fox is predominantly socially monogamous,[12] although it has been observed in polygynous groups. In contrast to other canids, the bat-eared fox has a reversal in parental roles, with the male taking on the majority of the parental care behavior. Gestation lasts for 60–70 days and females give birth to litters consisting of one to six kits. Beyond lactation, which lasts 14 to 15 weeks,[3] males take over grooming, defending, huddling, chaperoning, and carrying the young between den sites. Additionally, male care and den attendance rates have been shown to have a direct correlation with cub survival rates.[13] The female forages for food, which she uses to maintain milk production, on which the pups heavily depend. Food foraged by the female is not brought back to the pups or regurgitated to feed the pups.[3]

Pups in the Kalahari region are born September–November and those in the Botswana region are born October–December. Young bat-eared foxes disperse and leave their family groups at 5–6 months old and reach sexual maturity at 8–9 months.[3]

Conservation threats

The bat-eared fox has some commercial use for humans. They are important for harvester termite population control, as the termites are considered pests. They have also been hunted for their fur by Botswana natives.[3] Additional threats to populations include disease and drought that can harm populations of prey; however, no major threats to bat-eared fox populations exist.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b Nel, J.A.J. & Maas, B. (2008). "Otocyon megalotis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2009.old-form url
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Clark, H. O. (2005). "Otocyon megalotis". Mammalian Species. 766: 1–5. doi:10.1644/1545-1410(2005)766[0001:OM]2.0.CO;2. JSTOR 3504550.
  4. ^ a b Paleobiology Database: Otocyon Basic info.
  5. ^ Macdonald, David W.; Sillero-Zubir, Claudio (2004-06-24), The Biology and Conservation of Wild Canids, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780191523359, retrieved February 16, 2016
  6. ^ a b The Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. At the University Press. 1910. p. 770.
  7. ^ a b Kuntzsch, V.; Nel, J.A.J. (1992). "Diet of bat-eared foxes Otocyon megalotis in the Karoo". Koedoe. 35 (2): 37–48. doi:10.4102/koedoe.v35i2.403.
  8. ^ Trappe JM, Claridge AW, Arora D, Smit WA (2008). "Desert truffles of the Kalahari: ecology, ethnomycology and taxonomy". Economic Botany. 62 (3): 521–529. doi:10.1007/s12231-008-9027-6.
  9. ^ Kieser, J.A. (May 1995). "Gnathomandibular Morphology and Character Displacement in the Bat-eared Fox". Journal of Mammalogy. 76 (2): 542–550. doi:10.2307/1382362. JSTOR 1382362.
  10. ^ Westbury, Michael; Dalerum, Fredrik; Norén, Karin; Hofreiter, Michael (2017-01-01). "Complete mitochondrial genome of a bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis), along with phylogenetic considerations" (PDF). Mitochondrial DNA Part B. 2 (1): 298–299. doi:10.1080/23802359.2017.1331325.
  11. ^ Thompson, Paul. "Otocyon megalotis,bat-eared fox". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  12. ^ Wright, Harry WY; et al. (2010). "Mating tactics and paternity in a socially monogamous canid, the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis)". Journal of Mammalogy. 91 (2): 437–446. doi:10.1644/09-mamm-a-046.1.
  13. ^ Wright, Harry William Yorkstone (2006). "Paternal den attendance is the best predictor of offspring survival in the socially monogamous bat-eared fox". Animal Behaviour. 71 (3): 503–510. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2005.03.043.
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Bat-eared fox: Brief Summary

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 src= Bat Eared Fox at Masai Mara National Reserve

The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is a species of fox found on the African savanna, named for its large ears, which are used for thermoregulation. Fossil records show this canid first appeared during the middle Pleistocene, about 800,000 years ago. It is considered a basal canid species, resembling ancestral forms of the family, It has also been called a Sub-Saharan African version of a Fennec Fox due to their huge ears.

The bat-eared fox (also referred to as Delalande's fox, long-eared fox, big-eared fox, and black-eared fox) has tawny fur with black ears, legs, and parts of the pointed face. It averages 55 centimetres (22 in) in length (head and body), with ears 13 centimetres (5.1 in) long. It is the only species in the genus Otocyon. The name Otocyon is derived from the Greek words otus for ear and cyon for dog, while the specific name megalotis comes from the Greek words mega for large and otus for ear.

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