For many mammals hot salt swamps have arisen in saline desert replaced former Mediterranean Sea are the most improper place for life. Any unadapted animal casually got in these places is doomed for death within several days. In border areas of Mediterranean swamps frequently there are corpses animal, lost from thirst and overheat. Salt can keep their bodies for long years, impregnating them when wind wears out the dead animals with salty sand and dust. But some mammals could adapt to these severe conditions, and there are even species prospering in this inhospitable environment. Usually rodents make the majority among champions on survival, but representatives of predatory mammals also live in severe desert at the border between Europe and Africa. They are descendants of the fennec fox (Vulpes zerda), the small big-eared fox. This tiny Holocene canid, at which the significant part of diet was made with insects, was perfectly adapted to survival in extreme conditions of critical shortage of water resources. Holocene fennec foxes could live without water for some days even in conditions of heated deserts of Holocene North Africa.
Therefore right at the beginning of Neocene descendants of fennec fox could colonize droughty open spaces of Mediterranean lowland while the rests of sea still existed in hollow between continents. In due course descendants of fennec fox turned even smaller and passed to completely insectivorous diet, having formed a separate fennecine subfamily (Fennecinae) within canid family. The fennecine subfamily includes one genus Chuti and two species – chootie and adjule. Chootie is a typical species of genus. It is a predator of very unusual shape: a tiny mammal which length does not exceed 12 cm including tail. Thus ears of this one have kept the same proportional size relatively to body size, which was at fennec fox, its far ancestor. Running chootie from apart looks like any rodent, and its belonging to predators can be defined only at more attentive survey. Chootie has rather short legs in comparison with its ancestor, and shorter tail. Loss of water and overheating are the basic dangers at life in salt desert. Chootie escapes from overheat with the help of wide auricles penetrated with blood vessels and helping to radiate superfluous heat. Its wool is dense and velvety despite of a hot climate in its habitat. Such wool provides protection from overheat to skin of animal. Colouring of chootie is camouflaging – reddish or yellowish. In the populations living in saline soils of Mediterranean hollow, white and light grey color variations are most usual. Chootie avoids loss of water due to habit of life and features of physiology. This animal is active at twilight hours and in dawn time, spends its day in one of regularly visited shelters at its territory, and sleeps within some hours at night in temporary shelters. Kidneys of this animal work very effectively, and urine has very high concentration of nitrogenous substances. Chootie is extreme cautious mammal relying on sharp hearing and keen sense of smell in detection of danger. Out of breeding period lonely chooties constantly migrate from one small source of fresh water to another. Moreover chootie receive a significant part of moisture from food. The basis of chootie diet is made of insects and other small invertebrates. The liver of animal effectively destroys some poisons of organic origin, therefore chootie can eat poisonous beetles, millipeds and spiders entirely. Chooties become prey of reptiles and birds of prey. Despite of adaptations to life in desert, chootie always faces real danger to die from dehydration. In dust storm animals may simply choke with salty dust if the shelter can not protect them. The care of posterity at this species is original. At males long fur jabot grows on breast soon after pairing. The wool in this jabot has one feature – at contact to water it is capable to accumulate and keep moisture in significant amount. While the female feeds cubs, male searches for water. At night stones in desert quickly cool down, and to morning plentiful dew accumulates on them. Male literally wallows on surface of stone and creeps on it on belly, carefully absorbing dew by wool. When he comes back to the female and cubs, they lick off this moisture from fur jabot, receiving thus the additional portion of water. Within one year the female has time to draw up to three litters of 4 – 5 cubs in each. Like all animals of small size, chootie grows quickly: the month-aged cub already reaches the size of adult individual and becomes independent. And five month old animals can raise their first litter. More successfully chootie breeds in winter and in the spring when from the Alpes and Atlas Mountains streams flow down to the Mediterranean hollow, and air is damper. In summer animals do not breed, and if the female is pregnant, embryos are “conserved” at the early stage of development, or simply resolve. Life expectancy of chootie makes about 7 – 8 years. Also in eastern part of Mediterranean swamps and at the territory of former coast of Asia Minor larger species lives – adjule (Chuti adjule). Its adult males reach the size up to 20 cm. It has similar biology, but can attack small reptiles occasionally. This species always keeps in pairs and lives near to constantly existing sources of water. Colouring of wool is grey with black strip along the back.