Not Playing by the “Rules”

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Legend tells of a fox as black as night, so that it can never be seen in a man’s shadow. Although sometimes seen in juveniles, this black-phase phenomenon is quite rare. Foxes love urban green patches where they can hunt and also enjoy a life of secrecy. Remarkably, in ecosystems with larger predators, they continue to have success.

Regarding thisĀ color morph, we must ask several questions:

1) Physiologically, how does this happen?

2) Is this the product of natural selection?

3) If so, what is the evolutionary advantage?

There does not seem to be any specific studies that have looked at this condition in red foxes. However, there are two that look at the genetics of melanism in cats and wolves.

This article looks into the melanistic variants of the Felidae family. The researchers studied the genetic basis, evolutionary history, and adaptive significance of this dark color.

Interestingly enough, the researchers in this article show that traits that are selected in domestic dogs can influence fur color in wild wolves and coyotes.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for this guy in Statesville.


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