Image Via Apex Design [Flickr]
While it's easy to think that the fennec fox's giant eyes and massive ears were all part of a genius plan to make them too utterly adorable to resist -the reality is that this utmost cuteness is just a side effect of their many desert-friendly adaptations. You see, living in one of the most extreme environments on earth, the Sahara Desert, isn't easy.
While the fennec fox is the smallest canid in the world, they happen to have the largest ears of all varieties of foxes. These impossibly huge ears aren't just there to make them look cartoonish, and while they are sensitive enough to help the critters hear small prey moving underground, that still isn't their primary function. No, those giant ears are actually designed mainly to help the fennecs dissapate heat from their bodies.
Image Via Chris Stubbs [Wikipedia]
As for their massive eyes, well, those help them see in the dark, as being nocturnal means they can sleep in their dens during the day -thus keeping out of the warm sunlight. The dens are also beneficial as the foxes get most of their water through their food, but their burrows also gather dew overnight, providing them with an additional water source.
Even their fur is specially adapted to help them cope with the extreme weather. At night, it helps keep them warm and during the day, it reflects solar rays and insulates them from heat. Their feet are even covered with fur, which prevents them from scorching on the hot desert sand and makes it easier for them to walk on the sand -kind of like built-in snow shoes.
Image Via cactusbeetroot [Flickr]
While little is known about their survival status in the wild, scientists speculate that they are doing well, given how often they are spotted by visitors to their local habitat. Of course, it probably isn't hurting that they are one of the handful of creatures with an expanding natural environment, as the Sahara continues to grow around 30 miles per year.