quinta-feira, maio 05, 2011

Sampson fox found near Amareleja, Portugal

Today I thought I had suddenly entered the fifth dimension when a local farmer came to me with cell phone photos of what he called a "chupacabra". I eared about the myth of a canine like animal that drinks the blood of other animals, somewhere in the southern United States or in Central America, but never really believed any of it much. Anyway, this is Europe, except for the Loch Ness monster we wiped out any chance for mythical animals in the old country, so I didn't expect to find any thing too extraordinary even in this remote area of Portugal.

The photos were very strange, it looked like some wierd mix between a hairless rabbit, a cat and a very weird kangaroo. My first thought was that they were messing with me, they took some photos from the web and were pulling my leg with them. Still, when I asked where was this strange animal, they said their dog had killed it and they had the corpse on their farm.

Of course I couldn't resist my curiosity and went along to see what they had found. When we got to the farm, they took me straigth to an old olive tree where they hanged the beast. When I looked at it, I immediately realized too things, it was quite real, but it was probably just a very strange fox. I went over the stange creature and both its size, general body shape and dentition clearly indicated a red fox, only this was a completely hairless fox.

The "chupacabra" of Amareleja, actually just a red fox with a rare genetic disorder known as Sampson.

As you can see on the photo, this fox seems to lack nearly all body hair, and seems to have extra large ears. I had no idea if this was some kind of strange disease or just a genetic mutation, but I brought back the corpse and took a better look at it in the lab. Fully convinced that it was indeed just an ordinary red fox lacking its fur, I started investigating this on the web. Apparently, this is a rare mutation that affects red foxes, known as Sampson, that generates individuals that lack their protective coat of hair. These foxes usually survive as long as they live in a warm area or are able to find warm places to hide during the night. Because of the extra energy-demand of being hairless they tend to be more voracious than other foxes and they need to hunt during the day, to avoid the cold of the night.

I have no idea whether Sampson foxes had been detected before in Portugal, and if anyone is interested in this specimem do contact me. I can give you further details on this. Fell free to spread this information to anyone who might be interested in this observation, they can contact me via email: p.m.g.lourenco@gmail.com

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