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Temporal range: Middle Miocene - Recent
Europäischer Ziesel in Hockstellung.jpg
European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Tribe: Marmotini
Genus: Spermophilus
Cuvier, 1825

See text.





Spermophilus sensu stricto







Relationships among the Marmotini according to cytochrome b data (Helgen et al., 2009: fig. 2). Genera that were formerly included in Spermophilus are in bold.

Spermophilus is a genus of ground squirrels in the family Sciuridae. The majority of ground squirrel species, over 40 in total, are usually placed in this genus. However, Spermophilus in the broad sense has been found to be paraphyletic to the certainly distinct prairie dogs, marmots, and antelope squirrels, so it has been split into several genera by Kristofer Helgen and colleagues.

Some Eurasian species are sometimes called susliks (or sousliks). This name comes from Russian суслик, suslik.[1] In some languages a derivative of the name is in common usage, for example suseł in Polish.[2] The scientific name of this genus means "seed-lovers".

Ground squirrels may carry fleas that transmit diseases to humans (see Black Plague), and have been destructive in tunneling underneath human habitation. Though capable of climbing, most species of ground squirrel live in open, treeless habitats.[3]


A generic revision was undertaken in 2007 by means of phylogenetic analyses using the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b. This resulted in the splitting of Spermophilus into eight genera, which with the prairie dogs, marmots, and antelope squirrels are each given as numbered clades. The exact relations between the clades are slightly unclear. Among these, 11 exclusively Palearctic species are retained as the genus Spermophilus sensu stricto (in the strictest sense).

  • Clade 2, Ammospermophilus, the antelope squirrels
See antelope squirrel.
  • Clade 6, Cynomys, the prairie dogs
See prairie dog
  • Clade 7, Poliocitellus
  • Clade 8, Ictidomys, little ground squirrels
  • Clade 9, Marmota, the marmots
See marmot.



External links[edit]