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.
The bat-eared fox (also referred to as big-eared fox, black-eared fox, cape fox, and Delalande’s fox) has tawny fur with black ears, legs, and parts of the pointed face. It averages 55 cm in length (head and body), with ears 13 cm 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.
Bat-eared foxes are found in short-grass plains—and areas where termites and beetles are found—in East and Southern Africa.
As its name indicates, the bat-eared fox has unusually enormous ears in proportion to its head, like those of many bats. Its body is generally yellow-brown with a pale throat and under parts. The outsides of the ears, the raccoon-like “face mask,” lower legs, feet, and tail tip are all black. Its legs are relatively short.
Bat-eared foxes play an important role in termite control.
A single bat-eared fox can eat up to 1.15 million termites each year—this is about 80% of their diets. In addition to termites, bat-eared foxes also eat other insects and arthropods, small rodents, lizards, the eggs and chicks of birds, and plant matter. They obtain much of their water from the body fluid of the insects they consume.
They are most active at night.
Bat-eared foxes are primarily nocturnal. They emerge from their underground dens at dusk to feed during the night.
Bat-eared foxes are wily escape artists.
To escape from predators, the bat-eared fox relies on speed and its incredible dodging ability.
They form family groups similar to our own.
Bat-eared foxes live in groups of mating pairs and their young. They are usually monogamous and breed annually, producing a litter of three to six pups. These family groups social-groom often, play, and sleep together. Males participate in guarding, grooming, and playing with the young as much as or even more than the mother.