The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in Saudi Arabia: loose-knit groupings in the absence of territoriality

Authors

  • D. W. Macdonald,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, U.K.
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  • O. Courtenay,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, U.K.
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    • Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, U.K.

  • S. Forbes,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, U.K.
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  • F. Mathews

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, U.K.
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Abstract

Adaptations to extreme environmental conditions were investigated in a detailed study of red foxes Vulpes vulpes inhabiting a desert region of Saudi Arabia. Forty-two adult foxes were live-trapped during 3 years of field work. In contrast to red foxes studied in other areas, no strict territoriality was observed in this population. Although close interaction (separation < 1 m) was more common between members of the same, rather than different, social groups, medium distance interactions were similar. Further, intra-group encounters were much less common than for foxes in the U.K., and foxes did not avoid each other at territory boundaries. All foxes used food-rich sites associated with human activity, and aggregations of up to four foxes were regularly seen in these areas. It is suggested that the combination of an extremely harsh environment, with spatially and temporally variable food supplies, leads to the formation of loosely knit social groups. Saudi Arabian red foxes followed Bergmann's rule in being considerably smaller than those found in cooler areas. They also had a lighter coloured pelage than red foxes typical of Europe and North America. These morphological differences may represent adaptations to the low availability of food and rest sites in the desert.

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