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Arctic Fox
The Vulpes Lagopus, more commonly known as the Arctic Fox is found in primarily arctic areas in the northern hemisphere. It is currently in a stable population position (Least Concern classification on the IUCN chart). Its name Vulpes Lagopus means fox with hair on its feet (Vulpes being Latin for fox, and Lagopus being Ancient Greek for hair + foot). While it is considered a true fox (that of the genus Vulpes), it was first thought to be of its own genus (Alopex).
Scientific Classification
Level
Classification
Kingdom:
Animalia
Phylum:
Chordata
Class:
Mammalia
Order:
Carnivora
Family:
Canidae
Genus:
Vulpes
Species:
V. lagopus

Arctic_Fox_Diagram.jpg
Arctic Fox (Vulpes Lagopus)


Habitat
Vulpes Lagopus resides in the northern Arctic regions, this includes Alaska, Canada, Russia and Greenland, but there have been records of Arctic Foxes being found much further south at times (see Figure 02. for a more detailed map of where Arctic Foxes live). The Arctic climate is very desolate. It is known for its long and extremely cold winters, and short, and still cold summers (ranging from -40°C to 10°C in the year). With snow all year round there is very little grass or other things on the ground, this is one of the reasons the Arctic Fox has become an omnivore. The Arctic Fox normally relies on a diet of small animals, found under the snow, such as lemmings and voles. Foxes usually create dens near cliffs along the ocean, due to the fact that many abandoned nests from seabirds are present here. The environment has few alpine trees due to the fact that this far north most forms of life cannot survive. The native animals to the area include polar bears, snow leopards, caribou, snowy owl, walrus, wolverine, muskox and of course the arctic fox. This results in a diverse ecosystem, with a large food web. The Arctic Fox does not migrate, meaning it has learned to endure its environment all year round (e.g. it’s changing fur).
Arctic_Fox_Range_Map.png

Adaptations


The Arctic Fox has adapted to its environment in many physical ways. One adaptation of the Arctic Fox is the change in fur colour during different times of the year. In winter, the Arctic Fox has an ‘Arctic White’ pelt, and as it begins to warm up this fur sheds to reveal a brown coat underneath. There are many reasons as to why the Arctic Fox has developed this interesting feature. Firstly, the coat is a defence mechanism, in its natural habitat; Arctic Foxes are the prey of a lot of animals, such as Polar Bears. The coat changing at different times of the year allow it to blend in with the appropriate flora, thus hiding their presence from predators. The Arctic Fox also changes fur colour as an stalking and attacking perk, so that when stalking Polar Bears, following them to eat their scraps they will not be seen. Also when hunting on their own, the colour of their fur can hide their presence from unwary prey. This sort of adaptation is seen in many other Arctic animals, such as Snow Leopard, which, while not as significant does change its fur colour also. This allows Arctic Foxes to have a higher chance of survival and thus continue breeding for further generations.
This adaptation is therefore developed from the fact that as the environment around it changes colour its fur does too.

Small Face Adaptation
In the Arctic daily temperatures range from -50°C to 0°C, a lot of this is due to wind chill. Unlike most other Canines (and therefore most Foxes), Arctic Foxes have quite small ears, a short snout and small eyes. This allows the Fox to keep the blood warm in the face, preventing things such as frostbite from occurring. Because the frostbite is prevented, the Arctic Fox have a higher chance of survival, allowing the creature to breed and create new generations.
So therefore due to the fact that the environment in which the animal lives in has extremely harsh and cold winds it has developed a small face.

Solitary Hunting Adaptation
Living in the far north The Arctic Fox has adapted over time to live by itself, hunt by itself, and only meeting with other foxes to mate and raise a family. Because the Arctic Fox lives alone it does not have to provide for a skulk (collective word for Foxes) of Foxes. This allows the Arctic Fox to have a higher chance of survivability, and even in a modern society where Arctic Foxes are constantly hunted for their fur, their numbers have not declined, thus allowing them to continue breeding. It has been known to follow Polar Bears and Snow Leopards in order to find food.
In conclusion the Arctic Fox hunts by itself due to the lack of easily obtainable food for a skulk present in its environment.

Keen Hearing Adaptation
Foxes have particularly accurate and strong hearing, similar to that of other canines, this allows them to hear things humans can’t (e.g. a dog whistle) and also allows them to more accurately pinpoint where the sound is coming from. The Keen Hearing adaptation of Arctic Foxes is primarily a hunting tool. The way in which this species of fox hunts is through listening to the ground to determine where the lemmings are hiding or digging, then they pounce on the lemmings and dig them out. The environmental factor that caused the fox to develop keen hearing was that lemmings attempted to be as quiet as possible, and so in order for the Arctic Fox to hear them they needed to develop stronger hearing. This adaptation has provided the Arctic Fox with a greater food supply, allowing for faster reproduction of their species.
The Arctic Fox’s environment requires that it have keen hearing, otherwise it will be unable to find its prey under the surface layer of snow.

Counter current Heat Exchange Adaptation
Counter current heat exchange (CCHE) is the change of heat inside the body of certain animals. It is commonly found in dolphins and other sea mammals, as well as the feet of Arctic Foxes. The reason as to why the Arctic Fox developed this trait is due to the environment in which it lives, having regular temperatures below 0°C. CCHE works in that as the blood flows towards the feet it cools, and as it flows out of the feet it heats up. The purpose of CCHE (see Figure 04.) is to prevent a loss of heat through dissipation through the feet, in turn allowing the fox to keep a warmer core body temperature with less energy needed. This allows the Arctic Fox to spend more energy on finding food, which ensures the survival of the creature.

CCHE.jpg
Bibliography
M, T.H. (2008). Arctic fox (alopex lagopus). Retrieved from http://www.canids.org/species/Alopex_lagopus.htm. Downloaded on June 17th, 2011.
D, W.L. (2011). Arctic fox facts. Retrieved from http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/arctic_fox.php. Downloaded on June 17th, 2011.
S, S.I. (2004). Arctic wildlife. Retrieved from http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/html/arctic_fox.html. Downloaded on June 17th, 2011.
T, C.O. (1998). Arctic fox. Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/3500/arctic_fox.htm. Downloaded on June 17th, 2011.
A.B, A. (2008). Iucn red list of threatened species. Retrieved from http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/899/rangemap. Downloaded on June 22nd, 2011.