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I'm all ears

The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is a type of canid native to the African savanna. Bat-eared foxes are not considered true foxes (Vulpes) and instead belong to their own distinct genus (Otocyon). The term 'Otocyon' is derived from the Greek words 'otus' for 'ear' and 'cyon' for 'dog'. Their large ears are used for hunting, and for keeping cool in the sweltering heat.

Photo Description – Bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape, South Africa Photo Credits and acknowledgements – Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bat-eared foxes are the only canids which are truly insectivorous. They subsist almost entirely on harvester termites and dung beetles. They use their large ears to listen for insects or beetle larvae hatching from dung. Bat-eared foxes are greatly beneficial to farmers. They help control the populations of harvester termite populations, which devastate a variety of crops. If termites are not available, the bat-eared fox will also eat other insects and arthropods, and occasionally, birds and small animals.

A family of bat-eared foxes typically consists of the father, mother, and a litter of pups. Unlike other canids, males take on most of the parental care, protecting, grooming, and playing with the pups while the female is out foraging.

They are currently classified as a species of least-concern. However, as human populations continue to increase, a threat they face is a loss of habitat. In some countries, they are seen as a threat to small livestock. Indigenous peoples in Botswana hunt them for their fur, while they are hunted as game in South Africa.

Today, we share a chromosome-length assembly for the bat-eared fox. This is a Hi-C upgrade to a draft genome assembly published recently by Rémi Allio, Frédéric Delsuc and team at Université de Montpellier (Allio et al., 2021) as part of the ongoing ConvergeAnt project ( The sample for the Hi-C upgrade was donated by the Oklahoma City Zoo. Special thanks also to Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and DNA Zoo Australia team at the University of Western Australia for computational support of the upgrade.

Check out below how the chromosomes of the bat-eared fox relate to those of the dog (Canis lupus familiaris) and explore the interactive contact map for the 36 chromosomes. More data and links related to this assembly can be found on the corresponding assembly page!

Whole-genome alignment plot showing the correspondence between the chromosomes of the dog (2n=78, CanFam3.1) and the new bat-eared fox genome assembly (2n=72, Otocyon_megalotis_TS305_17_09_2019_HiC).

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