Perote ground squirrel
|Perote ground squirrel|
Spermophilus perotensis Merriam, 1893
The Perote ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus perotensis) is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family. It is endemic to Mexico. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland occurring from 2200 to 2700 feet in elevation.
Habitat and Ecology
This squirrel is active approximately 9 months of the year, from early March to November. By early October, most squirrels have gone into hibernation. Predators of the ground squirrel include Long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). This species is threatened by extensive habitat fragmentation and deforestation within its restricted range due to timber extraction and clearing of forest for agriculture. While the squirrel once occupied a range of approximately 5250 square kilometers in the Perote grasslands in El Oriental Basin which lies between Puebla and Veracruz, due to aforementioned habitat fragmentation, the squirrel now only occupies 16 localities in an area totaling 2457 square kilometers. There localities are separated by, on average, 15.8 kilometers, indicating the severity of their fragmentation. El Oriental Basin is surrounded almost entirely by a belt of temperate mountain ranges, which prevent the squirrel from dispersing to new habitat.  El Oriental Basin is made up of lava flows, isolated mountains, and volcanoes and so provides only localized habitable areas. The squirrel is strongly associated with alkaline grasslands, and was commonly found peripherally in hilly and rocky areas.
Genetic Diversity and Conservation
Due to the increased fragmentation of the ground squirrels native habitat, they have suffered a sharp decrease in genetic diversity. By comparing mitochondrial DNA of current populations with historic museum specimens, scientists have observed a decrease in haplotype and nucleotide diversity.  Because of rapid generation times and large effective population sizes, Sciurids are expected to exhibit high numbers of haplotypes; however, the Perote Ground Squirrel is an exception to the rule. Scientists are concerned that this loss of genetic diversity may contribute to their eventual extinction. It is recommended that management action be taken to help increase genetic diversity; the most likely solution being a relocation of certain individuals within each of the 16 populations
Unfortunately, many experts fear the squirrel will go extinct without human intervention. Very little is known about the Perote Ground Squirrel, and as a result it has received little attention from wildlife management in Mexico.
- Álvarez-Castañeda, S. T., Castro-Arellano, I., Lacher, T. & Vázquez, E. (2008). Spermophilus perotensis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
- Valdéz, Manuel, Gerardo Ceballos, and Manuel Valdez. "Conservation of Endemic Mammals of Mexico: The Perote Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus Perotensis)." Journal of Mammalogy 78.1 (1997): 74. Print
- Fernández, Jesús A. "Phylogenetics and Biogeography of the Microendemic Rodent(Perote Ground Squirrel) in the Oriental Basin of Mexico." Journal of Mammalogy 93.6 (2012): 1431-439. Print.
- Ochoa, Alexander, Jaime Gasca, Gerardo J. Ceballos, and Luis E. Eguiarte. "Spatiotemporal Population Genetics of the Endangered Perote Ground Squirrel () in a Fragmented Landscape." Journal of Mammalogy 93.4 (2012): 1061-074. Print
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