New fox subspecies uncovered in California
January 03, 2010
Heavily-populated California may be one of the last places one would expect to find a new mammal, but the Sacramento Bee reports that genetic evidence has revealed a new subspecies of red fox.
"The fact that the evidence is pointing toward it as a native species – and a native species that we didn't know about – is kind of an amazing development," Armand Gonzales, a wildlife program manager at the California Department of Fish and Game, told the Sacramento Bee. "That doesn't happen very often."
The subspecies, now named the Sacramento Valley red fox, was long thought to be an alien species, introduced from the East Coast. But genetic testing by Ben Sacks, an assistant professor of biology at both the University of California, Davis, and California State University, Sacramento, shows that not only are the foxes unique, but they are Californian through-and-through. Davis research will be published in Conservation Genetics.
Davis says he believes the Sacramento Valley red fox are most closely related to the endangered Sierra Nevadan fox. Next he plans to study whether or not the newly-uncovered subspecies is threatened.
The Sacramento Valley red fox is outwardly identical to the red fox.