Polar Biology

, Volume 30, Issue 8, pp 1047–1058 | Cite as

The naked fox: hypotrichosis in arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus)

  • Pall HersteinssonEmail author
  • Gudmundur Georgsson
  • Stefán Adalsteinsson
  • Eggert Gunnarsson
Original Paper


We describe the manifestations and occurrence of hypotrichosis in arctic foxes and compare it to the Samson character in red foxes. During 1979–2005, we collected carcasses of both normal and hypotrichotic arctic foxes from foxhunters in Iceland for macroscopic and microscopic examination and study of demography. We obtained live pups for breeding and transmission experiments in captivity during 1985–1992. Placental scar counts showed that hypotrichotic vixens were more fertile than normal vixens and generally all their pups were hypotrichotic. Fertility in hypotrichotic vixens was positively correlated with winter air temperature but not in normal vixens. Hypotrichotic males were less likely to breed than normal males and probably had a higher mortality rate than either hypotrichotic females or normal foxes. Hypotrichosis can be transmitted between adult foxes. Microscopic examination revealed prominent chronic inflammation of the dermis in hypotrichotic specimens, degenerative changes, vacuolisation and necrosis of hair follicles. Hypotrichosis persists in coastal areas with mild winters and may become more common with global warming.


Guard Hair Hypotrichosis Placental Scar Condylobasal Length Zygomatic Width 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



we would like to thank all the foxhunters who throughout the study sent in jaws of arctic foxes and whole carcasses for study and accompanying information on the animals. We thank three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments and criticisms. This study was partly financed by the Science Research Council of Iceland.


  1. Adalsteinsson S, Hersteinsson P, Gunnarsson E (1987) Fox colors in relation to colors in mice and sheep. J Hered 78:235–237PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahima RS, Flier JS (2000) Leptin. Ann Rev Physiol 62:413–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ahima RS, Dushay J, Flier SN, Prabakaran D, Flier JS (1997) Leptin accelerates the onset of puberty in normal female mice. J Clin Invest 99:391–395PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ahima RS, Saper CB, Flier JS, Elmquist MK (2000) Leptin regulation of neuroendocrine systems. Front Neuroendocrin 21:263–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Allen S (1974) Samson fox. North Dakota Outdoors, December 1974, 8–9Google Scholar
  6. Allen DH, Melfi RC (1985) Improvements in techniques for ageing mammals by dental cementum annuli. Proc Iowa Acad Sci 92:100–102Google Scholar
  7. Árnason J (1862) Íslenskar þjóðsögur og æfintýri. JC Hinrich, Leipzig, pp 612–613 (in Icelandic)Google Scholar
  8. Carter TR (1998) Changes in the thermal growing season in Nordic countries during the past century and prospects for the future. Agr Food Sci Finl 7:161–179Google Scholar
  9. Dýrmundsson ÓR (1991) Shearing time of sheep with special reference to conditions in northern Europe: a review. Icel Agr Sci 5:39–46Google Scholar
  10. Eylands ÁG, Pálmason J, Jónsson J (1947) Þættir um innflutning búfjár og karakúlskjúkdóma. The Ministry of Agriculture, Iceland p 296 (in Icelandic)Google Scholar
  11. Eythorsson J (1981) Veðurfar. In: Thorarinsson S, Einarsson E, Gislason VT (eds) Náttúra Íslands, 2nd ed. Almenna bókafélagið, Reykjavik, pp 237–250 (in Icelandic)Google Scholar
  12. Fregley MJ (1989) Activity of the hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis during exposure to cold. Pharm Ther 41:85–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fuglei E, Øritsland NA (1999) Seasonal trends in body mass, food intake and resting metabolic rate, and induction of metabolic depression in arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) at Svalbard. J Comp Physiol B 169:361–369PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fuglei E, Oritsland NA (2003) Energy cost of running in an Arctic Fox, Alopex lagopus. Can Field Nat 117:430–435Google Scholar
  15. Fuglesteg BN, Haga OE, Folkow LP, Fuglei E, Blix AS (2006) Seasonal variations in basal metabolic rate, lower critical air temperature and responses to temporary starvation in the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) from Svalbard. Polar Biology 29:308–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gunnarsson E, Hersteinsson P, Adalsteinsson S (1991) Prevalence and geographical distribution of the ear canker mite (Otodectus cynotis) among arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) in Iceland. J Wildl Dis 27:105–109PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gunnlaugsson T (1955) Á refaslóðum. The Agricultural Society, Reykjavík (in Icelandic)Google Scholar
  18. Hardy MH, Tackaberry LE, Goldberg MT (1991) A new type of lesion associated with severe fur damage in Canadian ranch foxes and an investigation of possible causes. Can J Vet Res 55:71–75PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Hersteinsson P (1984) The behavioural ecology of the Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) in Iceland. D.Phil. thesis, Oxford UniversityGoogle Scholar
  20. Hersteinsson P (1987) Long-term variation in the arctic fox catch. Wildl Manage News (Iceland) 3(1):12–24 (in Icelandic with English summary)Google Scholar
  21. Hersteinsson P (1988) The Samson character in arctic foxes. Wildl Manage News (Iceland) 4(1):16–27 (in Icelandic with English Summary)Google Scholar
  22. Hersteinsson P (1992) Demography of the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) population in Iceland. In: McCullough DR, Barrett RH (eds) Wildlife 2001: populations. Elsevier, London, pp 954–964Google Scholar
  23. Hersteinsson P, Macdonald DW (1992) Interspecific competition and the geographical distribution of red and arctic foxes Vulpes vulpes and Alopex lagopus. Oikos 64:505-515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hersteinsson P, Gunnarsson E, Hjartardóttir S, Skírnisson K (1993) Prevalence of Encephalitozoon cuniculi antibodies in terrestrial mammals in Iceland. J Wildl Dis 29:341–344PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Irving L, Krog H, Monson M (1955) The metabolism of some Alaskan mammals in winter and summer. Physiol Zool 28:173–185Google Scholar
  26. Kitagawa H, Satoh H, Komatsuzaki C, Mori F, Kudo N (1987) Fox minute virus-like particle. Jap J Vet Res 35:21–39Google Scholar
  27. Konnerup-Madsen H, Hansen M (1980) Blåræven. Dansk Pelsdyravlerforening, Denmark (in Danish)Google Scholar
  28. Lampio T (1948) Samsonräven i Finland. Svensk Jakt 86:248-252 (in Swedish)Google Scholar
  29. Lampio T (1949) Samsonfrågan. Finlands Jakt och Fisketidrskrift 44:78–84 (in Swedish)Google Scholar
  30. Oksala T (1954) On the Samson character of the red fox. Pap Game Res 11:17–23Google Scholar
  31. Prestrud P, Nilssen K (1992) Fat deposition and seasonal variation in body composition of Arctic foxes in Svalbard. J Wildl Manage 56:221–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Root DA, Payne NF (1983) First report of a Samson gray fox. Wisc Acad Sci 71:113Google Scholar
  33. Saemundsson B (1932) Íslensk dýr II. Spendýrin (Mammalia Islandiæ). Bókaverslun Sigfúsar Eymundssonar, Reykjavík, Iceland (in Icelandic)Google Scholar
  34. Scholander PF, Walters V, Hock R, Irving I (1950) Body insulation of some arctic and tropical mammals and birds. Biol Bull 99:225–236PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Skírnisson K, Eydal M, Gunnarsson E, Hersteinsson P (1993) Parasites of the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) in Iceland. J Wildl Dis 29:440–446PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1969) Biometry. WH Freeman and Company, San FransiscoGoogle Scholar
  37. Strand O, Skogland T, Kvam T (1995) Placental scars and estimation of litter size—an experimental test in the arctic fox. J Mammal 76:1220–1225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Underwood LS, Reynolds P (1980) Photoperiod and Fur Lengths in the Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus L.). Int J Biometeor 24:39–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Voipio P (1950) Evolution at the population level with special reference to game animals and practical game management. Pap Game Res 5:1–176Google Scholar
  40. Voipio P (1990) The samson fox episode in Finland in the 1930s and 1940s, and the hypothetico-deductive method. Ann Zool Fenn 27:21–27Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pall Hersteinsson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gudmundur Georgsson
    • 2
  • Stefán Adalsteinsson
    • 3
    • 4
  • Eggert Gunnarsson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  2. 2.Institute for Experimental PathologyUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland
  3. 3.The Nordic Gene BankAgricultural University of NorwayAasNorway
  4. 4.ReykjavikIceland

Personalised recommendations