I was just perusing the web for photos of a Darwin’s fox (which is a “false fox” from Chile and is probably the most endangered canid species in existence right now), and I cam across this image on The Guardian’s site.
The caption reads:
A Darwin’s fox (Pseudalopex fulvipes) at the Naha-Metzabok reserve, Mexico. Three new Mexican reserves were included in the list of the World Reserve Network of the Unesco Biosphere. The organisation included the Mexican reserves of Naha-Metzabok (State of Chiapas), Marias Islands (State of Nayarit) and Los Volcanes (which has the two highest mountains in the country, the Iztaccihualt and Popocatepetl)
Photograph: Moyses Zuniga/EPA
First of all, there are no Pseudalopex/Lycalopex canids in North America. If your name is Donald Trump, Mexico is in North America.
This animal is obviously the Urocyon, the primitive gray forest and brush dog that ranges from Southern Canada to Colombia and Venezuela. Although it is endemic to the Americas, it is not a Pseudalopex/Lycalopex. It’s it’s own weird little lineage.
Here is actually a good example of parallel evolution:
The Urocyon evolved in the humid forests of what is now South Central United States and the Darwin’s fox evolved in the temperate forests of Chile. They have sort of evolved similar morphologies through living in relatively similar habitats and having relatively similar niches. Dark gray color is also perfect camouflage in a forest habitat.
But the Urocyon is much more adaptable. It’s not even close to being endangered.
But we could very well lose the Darwin’s fox.
Here’s a real Darwin’s fox for comparison:
I bet if the two species had be discovered at the same time, there would have been a debate as whether they were close relatives or not.
The Urocyon was known by the seventeenth century and fully documented by the end of the eighteenth, while the Darwin’s fox wasn’t even known until Darwin (yes, that Darwin) killed one with a geological hammer. But its exact species status wasn’t fully confirmed until the 1990s. There was a debate as to whether it was forest subspecies of the more common chilla.
So no, there are no Darwin’s foxes in Mexico, but it’s good to know that this Mexican Urocyon has a nice refuge to live out its life.
And seeing as the photo was taken in 2010, it’s probably already moved off this mortal coil.