Rock squirrel

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This article is about the North American squirrel. For Asian rock squirrels, see Sciurotamias.
Rock squirrel
Spermophilus variegatus.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Genus: Otospermophilus
Species: O. variegatus
Binomial name
Otospermophilus variegatus
(Erxleben, 1777)
Synonyms

Spermophilus variegatus

The rock squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus) is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae, native to Mexico and the south-western United States.

Characteristics[edit]

Alarm call

Rock squirrels are one of the largest members of the Sciuridae family, with adults measuring up to 21 inches (53 cm) in length.[2] In front and on top, the squirrel's coat is a speckled grayish-brown; on the rear and bottom the gray becomes a more mottled brownish-black tone. They have a marked light-colored ring around their eyes, and pointed ears that project well above their heads. They have a long bushy tail with white edges. When alarmed, they whistle a short, sharp oscillating call. The female rock squirrel has two litters a year with three to nine of their young in each litter. The first litter is born between April and June and the second litter is born between August and September.

Burrows and behaviors[edit]

Rock squirrels dig burrows with sharp claws and muscular legs. The burrows provide shelter, safety, living space and food storage. Burrow systems can be complex and lengthy as they are enlarged over years. Entrances are usually hidden beneath rocks and can be larger than 3 inches in width. Rock squirrels in the northern reach of their habitat hibernate in their burrows during the colder months of the year. In southern areas, rock squirrels may not hibernate at all. They are active in the early morning and late afternoons when it is warm - when very hot, they may estivate. They are social, and live in colonies with several females and one dominant male that will fight other mature males to protect the group. There may be subordinate males at the outer boundaries of the group. (Desert USA)

Diet[edit]

The rock squirrel is predominantly a herbivore, eating mostly leaves, stems, and seeds. They also eat acorns, pine nuts, and fruits of many native plants, including cacti. Occasionally, they may consume insects or the eggs of small nesting birds. The rock squirrel has also been known to eat their own kind, devouring the remains of squirrels that are already dead. The rock squirrel’s diet changes with the seasons, accustoming itself to what is available locally.[3]

Survival techniques[edit]

Rock squirrels create burrows for both shelter and safety. The burrows are large and complex, built with numerous entrances. They are also quick on their feet and great climbers. Rock squirrels also hibernate during the winter or estivate in the summer if temperatures are too high (March, 2). They can withstand long periods of time without water, some even up to 100 days (Oaks, 5).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Linzey, A. V., Timm, R., Álvarez-Castañeda, S. T., Castro-Arellano, I. & Lacher, T. (2008). Spermophilus variegatus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
  2. ^ Helgen, Kristofer M.; Cole, F. Russel; Helgen, Lauren E.; and Wilson, Don E (2009). "Generic Revision in the Holarctic Ground Squirrel Genus Spermophilus". Journal of Mammalogy 90 (2): 270–305. doi:10.1644/07-MAMM-A-309.1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2011. 
  3. ^ http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/rocksquirrel.htm

"Rock Squirrel - Spermophilus Variegatus." Rock Squirrel. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2015. “Rock Squirrel." S. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2015. animals in the United States and Mexico June 26, 2015

Belding’s, California, and Rock Ground Squirrels by Rex E. Marsh Mamallian Species by Emily C. Oaks

External links[edit]