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Temporal range: Early Eocene to Recent
White Tailed Squirrel.jpg
Ammospermophilus leucurus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Synapsida
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Suborder: Sciuromorpha
Brandt, 1855


The term Sciuromorpha has referred to numerous groups of rodents, but the only family common to all variations is the Sciuridae, the squirrels. Most definitions also include the mountain beaver.

Traditionally, the term has been defined on the basis of the shape of the infraorbital canal. A sciuromorphous zygomasseteric system is characterized by attachment of the lateral masseter muscle along the side of the rostrum. Unlike hystricomorphous and myomorphous rodents, the medial masseter muscle does not pass through the infraorbital canal. Among extant rodents, only the families Sciuridae, Castoridae, Heteromyidae, and Geomyidae are truly sciuromorphous. Some authorities would exclude the Geomyidae and Heteromyidae from that list due to the attachment of the medial masseter directly behind the zygomatic arch.

Carleton and Musser (2005) redefined the rodent suborders on morphological and molecular grounds. They defined the Sciuromorpha as including three families, Sciuridae, Aplodontiidae, and Gliridae. Of these, only the Sciuridae are truly sciuromorphous. The Aplodontiidae are protrogomorphous and the Gliridae are myomorphous. The connection between Aplodontiidae and Sciuridae has been proposed numerous times in the past. The two families have been united into a common infraorder (Sciurida) or superfamily (Sciuroidea). It has long been suggested that dormice (Gliridae) are not particularly related to the Myomorpha, and their zygomasseteric structure has been termed "pseudomyomorphy". The connection between squirrels and dormice has been almost exclusively suggested through genetic studies, and to a lesser degree via the fossil rodent Reithroparamys.

Skull of an oriental giant squirrel displaying a sciuromorphous zygomatic system

Current families[edit]

The suborder Sciuromorpha contains 307 living species in 61 genera and three families. At least three extinct families are also recognised.

Historical families[edit]


  • Carleton, M. D. and G. G. Musser. 2005. Order Rodentia. pp745–752 in Mammal Species of the World A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds.). Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.