Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Fennec Fox is the Smallest Canid in the World

Fennec Fox
Photo Credit: Yvonne N. (via Wikimedia Commons)
The Fennec Fox one of the cutest animals in the world, and is also the smallest species of canid (the family of mammals that includes dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals, and other dog-like animals). These little guys are even smaller than most of the dogs some celebrities like to carry around in purses. Your average Chihuahua weighs 3 - 6 pounds, and the fennec fox weighs in at 1.5 - 3.5 pounds. The fox's height and length are similar to those of the Chihuahua, but much of their size is taken up by ears and tail. The tail is 7 - 12 inches long, and the ears are about 6 inches each!

Fennec foxes are native to the Sahara desert and other parts of northern Africa. Living in the desert, they need a way to keep cool, and that's what the gigantic ears are for. There are lots of blood vessels near the skin of those ears, which help radiate body heat. Their light colored fur reflects the heat of the sun and protects the fox's skin, and it also keeps them warm during the cold desert nights.

Five more Fennec fox facts: 
- Like many desert animals, they can live for long periods of time without drinking water (they survive from the moisture in their food).
- Their diet consists mainly of insects, but they also eat rodents, lizards, and plant matter.
- They have fuzzy feet to help them walk on the hot sand.
- When temperatures rise above 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), the foxes may start to pant. When panting, their respiratory rate rises from 23 breaths per minute to 690 breaths per minute.
- The "copulation tie" has been known to last two hours and forty-five minutes!

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