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Darwin's Fox - Lycalopex fulvipes
#1
Scalesofanubis Wrote:Darwin's Fox - Lycalopex fulvipes

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Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Carnivora
Family:Canidae
Genus:Lycalopex
Species:  Lycalopex fulvipes

[Image: Pseudalopex_fulvipes.jpg]

Darwin's fox or Darwin's Zorro (Lycalopex fulvipes) is a small critically endangered canine from the genus Lycalopex. It is also known as the Zorro Chilote or Zorro de Darwin  in Spanish and lives on Chiloé Island and Nahuelbuta National Park in mainland Chile (Araucanía Region). Darwin's fox was first collected from San Pedro Island off the coast of Chile by the naturalist Charles Darwin in 1834. It was long held that Darwin's fox was a subspecies of the South American gray fox (L. griseus); however, the discovery of a small population of Darwin's fox on the mainland in Nahuelbuta National Park in 1990 and subsequent genetic analysis has clarified the fox's status as a unique species.  In 2013 it was officially confirmed the presence of Darwin's fox at Oncol Park and the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.

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Description
Darwin’s fox is one of the smallest fox species in the world, with a stout frame, elongated body and short legs. The muzzle is small and thin and extends into a rather rounded forehead, and the tail is relatively short and bushy. The thick coat is a dark grizzled grey to almost black colour, with a distinctive rusty-red colour on the lower legs and around the ears. The abdomen, chest, underside of the muzzle and the inside of the ears are a pale cream to white colour, and the tail is dark grey.
Taxonomy and Evolution
 When Charles Darwin collected a specimen from San Pedro Island in Chiloé Archipelago in December 1834 during the Beagle survey expedition, he observed that this "fox (of Chiloe, a rare animal) sat on the point & was so absorbed in watching [survey work], that he allowed me to walk behind him & actually kill him with my geological hammer".  In the 1839 publication of his Journal and Remarks, Darwin said "This fox, more curious or more scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his brethren, is now mounted in the museum of the Zoological Society." He said it was "an undescribed species", indicating that it was distinct from the species (L. culpaeus and L. griseus) that occur on the mainland. Later, Darwin's fox was classified as a subspecies (Pseudalopex griseus fulvipes) of the latter.
Darwin's fox does not interbreed with the other Lycalopex species, only lives in forests, and is smaller and darker-colored than the other species. In 1990 a small population of Darwin's fox was found on the mainland in the forested Nahuelbuta National Park, indicating that the fox was not endemic to the island. According to Yahnke et al., in their 1996 article published in the Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, analysis of mitochondrial DNA of Darwin's fox and the gray fox showed two patterns, indicating Darwin's fox was a new species, closely related to the Sechuran fox. Also according to Yahnke (1995; et al.1996) the present restricted range is a relict of a much wider former range. Zoologists noted the distinctiveness in the ecological niche, appearance, and behavior of this species. Darwin's fox is differentiated from the gray fox in being darker; having shorter legs; a broader, shorter skull; smaller auditory bullae; a more robust dentition; and a different jaw shape and style of premolar occlusion.

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Diet
Darwin's fox has a vast diet. In dense forests, where it exists, the foxes hunt for mammals, reptiles, beetles, and invertebrates. Sometimes it selects fruits and berries. Birds and amphibians to a lesser degree are also consumed. It sometimes eats carrion, but it mostly eats live animals and fruit. This makes it mostly an omnivore, sometimes a scavenger.

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Conservation Status
It is believed that there are only 250 Darwin's foxes on Chiloé Island and up to 70 on the mainland, and they are listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union.  Fragmentation of forest adjacent to the national park and on the island is a concern for their conservation, and feral dogs may pose the greatest threat to their survival by spreading disease or directly attacking. Persecution by people who think that the foxes attack domestic fowls, though they pose little threat, is also a potential problem.

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