South American fox

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Genus pseudalopex.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Subfamily: Caninae
Tribe: Canini
Genus: Lycalopex
Burmeister 1854
  • Pseudalopex Burmeister 1856
  • Canis (Pseudalopex) Allen 1895

The South American foxes (Lycalopex), commonly called raposa in Portuguese, or zorro in Spanish, are a genus of the family Canidae from South America. Despite their name, they are not true foxes, but are a unique canid genus related to wolves and jackals; some of them somewhat resemble foxes due to convergent evolution. The South American gray fox, Lycalopex griseus, is the most common species, and is known for its large ears and a highly marketable, russet-fringed pelt.

The second-oldest known fossils belonging to the genus were discovered in Chile, and date from 2.0 to 2.5 million years ago, in the mid- to late Pliocene.[3] The Vorohué Formation of Argentina has provided older fossils, dating to the Uquian to Ensenadan (Late Pliocene).[4]


The common English word "zorro" is a loan word from Spanish, with the word originally meaning "fox". Current usage lists Pseudalopex (literally: "false fox") as synonymous with Lycalopex ("wolf fox"), with the latter taking precedence.[1] The IUCN, for instance, retains the use of Pseudalopex while also acknowledging Lycalopex as a legitimate alternative.[5] In 1895, Allen classified Pseudalopex as a subgenus of Canis, establishing the combination Canis (Pseudalopex), a name still used in the fossil record.[2]


Species currently included in this genus include:[1]

Image Name Common name Distribution
Culpeo MC.jpg Lycalopex culpaeus Culpeo or Andean fox Ecuador and Peru to the southern regions of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego
Pseudalopex fulvipes-primer plano.jpg Lycalopex fulvipes Darwin's fox Nahuelbuta National Park (Araucanía Region), the Valdivian Coastal Range (Los Ríos Region) in mainland Chile and Chiloé Island
Zorrito Chile.JPG Lycalopex griseus South American gray fox Argentina and Chile
Graxaim (Pseudalopex gymnocercus) 4 (cropped).png Lycalopex gymnocercus Pampas fox northern and central Argentina, Uruguay, eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, and southern Brazil
Sechuran fox.jpg Lycalopex sechurae Sechuran fox Sechura Desert in southwestern Ecuador and northwestern Peru
Lycalopex vetulus Carlos Henrique 2.jpeg Lycalopex vetulus Hoary fox south-central Brazil
Canis (Pseudalopex) australis Vorohué Formation, Uquian-Ensenadan Argentina[4]

In 1914, Oldfield Thomas established the genus Dusicyon, in which he included these zorros. They were later reclassified to Lycalopex (via Pseudalopex) by Langguth in 1975.[1]


The following phylogenetic tree shows the evolutionary relationships between the Lycalopex species, based on molecular analysis of mitochondrial DNA control region sequences.[6]


Lycalopex vetulus (hoary fox) Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate XXXI).png

Lycalopex sechurae (Sechuran fox or Peruvian desert fox)

Lycalopex fulvipes (Darwin's fox)

Lycalopex gymnocercus (pampas fox) Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate XVII).png

Lycalopex griseus (South American gray fox or chilla)

Lycalopex culpaeus (culpeo or Andean fox) Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate XIV).png

Relationship with humans[edit]

The zorros are hunted in Argentina for their durable, soft pelts. They are also often labelled 'lamb-killers'.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b Canis (Pseudalopex) australis at
  3. ^ Lucherini, M. & Luengos Vidal, E. M. (2008). "Lycalopex gymnocercus (Carnivora: Canidae)". Mammalian Species. 820: Number 820, pp. 1–9. doi:10.1644/820.1.
  4. ^ a b Vorohuen (sic; Vorohué) Formation at
  5. ^ Jiménez, J. E. (2008). "Pseudalopex culpaeus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  6. ^ Tchaicka, Ligia; Freitas, Thales Renato Ochotorena de; Bager, Alex; Vidal, Stela Luengos; Lucherini, Mauro; Iriarte, Agustín; Novaro, Andres; Geffen, Eli; Garcez, Fabricio Silva; Johnson, Warren E.; Wayne, Robert K.; Eizirik, Eduardo (2016). "Molecular assessment of the phylogeny and biogeography of a recently diversified endemic group of South American canids (Mammalia: Carnivora: Canidae)" (PDF). Genetics and Molecular Biology. 39 (3): 442–451. doi:10.1590/1678-4685-GMB-2015-0189. PMC 5004827. PMID 27560989.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nowak, Ronald M. (2005). Walker's Carnivores of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. ISBN 0-8018-8032-7