The Bat-eared Fox, also known as the Otocyon megalotis, Delalande’s Fox, Long-eared Fox, Black-eared Fox, Big-eared Fox, and the Sub-Saharan version of a Fennec Fox, is a fox species commonly found in the savannahs of the African continent. This species looks like Cape Fox, except that the latter has big, perked ears used for thermoregulation. Fossil findings show that this species first appeared about 800,000 years ago. The Bat-eared Fox is considered a basal canid species, for it resembles its family’s ancestral forms.
This canine species was first described by French zoologist Anselme Gaëtan Desmarest in 1822. The Bat-eared Fox has two subspecies, namely O. megalotis megalotis and O. megalotis virgatus.
The Bat-eared Foxes serve some commercial use for humans. They are vital for harvester termite population control because they feed on termites, which humans usually consider pests. Threats to their population include poaching, disease, and drought. However, no significant threats exist up to this day. For this reason, this species was categorized as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Its eight levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: O. megalotis
The physical characteristics of a Bat-eared Fox
The Bat-eared Fox stands out for its enormous ears, which are quite big relative to its small size, standing for over 5 inches tall. The ears serve them a significant purpose in the wild—they are full of blood vessels that provide heat, keeping the Bat-eared Fox cool during the hot season. It also provides the fox with an excellent sense of hearing.
An adult Bat-eared Fox has a yellow-brown or sandy gray body. Its throat and underparts are pale. The outsides of its ears, lower legs and feet, the tip of the tail, and raccoon-like “face mask” are black in color. Not only its enormous ears but its dentation is what makes this species unique from other fox species. It possesses more teeth than any other heterodont placental mammal, with 46 to 50 teeth in total.
The distribution and habitat of Bat-eared Foxes
Two allopatric populations occur in Africa. The O. megalotis virgatus subspecies is present in Ethiopia, southern Sudan, and Tanzania. Meanwhile, the O. megalotis megalotis subspecies can be found in the south part of the African continent, particularly in southern Zambia, Angola, South Africa, eastern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cape Agulhas, and Cape Peninsula.
Bat-eared Foxes frequent a wide range of habitats such as short-grass savannas, scrublands, and arid grasslands. They are excellent diggers who live in dens that were dug by themselves or by other animals. A family of Bat-eared Foxes usually have multiple dens within its home range.
The behavior of a Bat-eared Fox
The Bat-eared Foxes are diurnal or nocturnal animals depending on their locality. In Serengeti, 85% of their activity occurs at night, while those in South Africa are diurnal in winter and nocturnal during summer.
In the southern African region, Bat-eared Foxes live in pairs with their pups. In eastern Africa, a group of foxes contains an adult male, a maximum of three adult females, and their pups. Both allopatric populations communicate using their tails, ears, urine, scent, and calls. They have nine calls, seven of which are low-pitched calls used to communicate within the group.
At their den sites, they socialize, bask in the sun, then rest. Their activity pattern depends on the activity level of harvester termites, their favorite food.
When it comes to mating, Bat-eared Foxes are mostly monogamous. They breed annually in their dens. A female Bat-eared Fox gives birth to six pups (also called as kits) that resemble Chihuahua pups with larger ears. These pups emerge from the den once they reach 8 to 12 days old. More often than not, one or two pups will not survive to see the light of day.
The mother Bat-eared Fox will nurse the pups for 10 to 15 weeks, while the father brings food to the family. The male will teach the pups how to forage, play with them, and groom them too.
The diet of a Bat-eared Fox
This species mainly feeds on insects and arthropods. It occasionally feeds on small rodents, bird eggs, lizards, and plant matter. More than 80% of this fox’s diet is made up of harvester termites and dung beetles. They get water from the bodily fluids of the insects they eat.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND: