Black giant squirrel

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Malayan black giant squirrel
Ratufa bicolor 6237.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Genus: Ratufa
R. bicolor
Binomial name
Ratufa bicolor
(Sparrman, 1778)
  • R. b. bicolor
  • R. b. condorensis
  • R. b. felli
  • R. b. gigantea
  • R. b. hainana
  • R. b. leucogenys
  • R. b. melanopepla
  • R. b. palliata
  • R. b. phaeopepla
  • R. b. smithi[2]
Ratufa bicolor range map.svg
Black giant squirrel range

Tennentii, source: Layard, in Blyth, 1849

The black giant squirrel or Malayan giant squirrel (Ratufa bicolor) is a large tree squirrel in the genus Ratufa native to the Indomalayan zootope. It is found in forests from northern Bangladesh, northeast India, eastern Nepal, Bhutan, southern China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and western Indonesia.


The black giant squirrel is one of the largest species of squirrel in the world. The standard adult black giant squirrel weights around 1.5 kilograms. The head and body length varies from 35 to 58 centimetres (14 to 23 in) in length, and the tail is up to 60 centimetres (24 in) long, with an overall length of up to 118 centimetres (46 in). The back, ears and bushy tail are deep brown to black with a lighter buff-colored belly.


Ratufa bicolor's range includes a variety of bioregions that all share the commonality of being forested. It ranges in elevation from sea level up to at least 1,400 metres (4,600 ft), in some of the most rugged land in the world. However, in recent decades, R. bicolor's habitat has been steadily encroached upon by human settlement, timber harvesting and agriculture, which along with overhunting by human predation in parts of its range, has resulted in a total loss of up to 30% of the population in the past ten years.[1] However, in some places this species is protected from hunting by law or tradition.[1]

In South Asia R. bicolor dwells among tropical and subtropical coniferous and broadleaf forests.[1]

In Southeast Asia R. bicolor lives in tropical broadleaf evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, but is rarely seen in coniferous forests.[1]

In the tropical rainforest of the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia, R. bicolor is not as abundant as elsewhere in its range, which is probably due to competition from other arboreal species (especially primates) for food in the upper forest canopy.[1]

Among the better places to sight the black giant squirrel is the Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam, India.[3]


R. bicolor is diurnal and arboreal, but sometimes climbs down from the forest canopy to feed on the ground.[1] The black giant squirrel rarely enters plantations or settlements, preferring the wild forest.[1]

Its diet consists of seeds, pine cones, fruits, and leaves.[1] It is primarily solitary, and has a litter of from 1 to 2 young, which it raises in a drey (or nest), often located within a hollow space of a tree.[1]


Further study is required to determine whether Ratufa bicolor actually represents several similar species.[1]

The table below lists the ten recognized subspecies of Ratufa bicolor, along with any synonyms associated with each subspecies:[2]

Ratufa bicolor taxonomy
Subspecies Authority Synonyms
R. b. bicolor Sparrman (1778) albiceps, baliensis, humeralis, javensis, leschnaultii, major, sondaica
R. b. condorensis Kloss (1920) none
R. b. felli Thomas and Wroughton (1916) none
R. b. gigantea McClelland (1839) lutrina, macruroides
R. b. hainana J. A. Allen (1906) stigmosa
R. b. leucogenys Kloss (1916) sinus
R. b. melanopepla Miller (1900) anambae, angusticeps, dicolorata, fretensis, penangensis, peninsulae, tiomanensis
R. b. palliata Miller (1902) batuana, laenata
R. b. phaeopepla Miller (1913) celaenopepla, marana
R. b. smithi Robinson and Kloss (1922) none



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Walston, J.; Duckworth, J. W.; Molur, S. (2008). "Ratufa bicolor". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  2. ^ a b Thorington, R.W., Jr.; Hoffmann, R.S. (2005). "Ratufa bicolor". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: a taxonomic and geographic reference (3rd ed.). The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 754–818. ISBN 0-8018-8221-4. OCLC 26158608.
  3. ^ Menon, Vivek (2009) [First published 2003]. Mammals of India. Princeton field guides. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-14067-4. OCLC 276340775. Originally published as: Menon, Vivek (ed.), et al. A field guide to Indian mammals (2003)


  • Francis, Charles M., Priscilla Barrett. A field guide to the mammals of South-East Asia. London: New Holland, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84537-735-9, OCLC: 190967851.
  • Lekhakun, Bunsong, Jeffrey A. McNeely. Mammals of Thailand. Bangkok: Association for the Conservation of Wildlife, 1977. OCLC: 3953763.
  • Nowak, Ronald M. Walker’s mammals of the world. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-8018-5789-8, OCLC: 39045218. Chapter: "Sciuridae: squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs" in volume two.

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