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The Fox

(Vulpes vulpes)
a woodland mammal

External features

coat of reddish fur

ear pinnae

prominent tail



(prominent canines)

large tongue

paws (non-retractable claws)

whitish underbelly and tip of tail


Phylum: chordata (vertebrates)
Class: mammals
Order: carnivores
Family: canines (dogs)
Genus: Vulpes
species: vulpes

Role in ecosystem: consumer

secondary consumer (carnivore)
eating small mammals, e.g. rabbits, mice, voles, shrews
and also invertebrates, e.g. slugs, beetles

but also sometimes

primary consumer (herbivore)
eating berries and other fruit

The following are characteristics of mammals in general:

> Body is covered by hair (fur).

> Female has mammary glands to produce milk to feed young.

> Ears have external pinnae (flaps) to concentrate and localise sounds - important to both predator and prey.

> Dentition: specialised teeth for different functions :-
   - incisors for nipping and tearing
   - canines for stabbing and gripping
   - premolars and molars (carnassial) for cutting and crunching

> Diaphragm - internal sheet of muscle between chest and abdomen used in breathing movements

> Placental development - young inside uterus are nourished by close connection between mother's blood and embryonic blood system.

> Endothermy - also called homeothermy - "warm bloodedness" - means that some of energy in food is used (wastefully) in respiration to keep body temperature constant (usually, but not always, above that of the surroundings). This results in more efficient metabolism and more dependable functioning. In case of overheating, mammals can lose excess heat by sweating, or panting.