Overview

Distribution

Caucasian squirrels are native to Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The southernmost recorded range of their distribution is the forest covered mountains of Jarash and Ajlum in Jordan (Amr et al. 2006).

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

  • Amr, Z., E. Edi, M. Qarqaz, M. Baker. 2006. The Status and Distribution of the Persian Squirrel, Sciurus anomalus (Mammalia: Rodentia: Sciuridae) in Dibbeen Nature Reserve, Jordan. Zoologische Abhandlungen, 55: 199-207.
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Range Description

occurs in extreme southeastern Europe and southwest Asia. In the Mediterranean region it occurs in Turkey (introduced to the area around Istanbul in 1964), the islands of Lesbos (Greece) and Gökçeada (Turkey) (Mitchell-Jones et al. 1999), Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan (Wilson and Reeder 2005). Also occurs in Transcaucasia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia), northern and western Iran, and Iraq (Wilson and Reeder 2005). A significant part of its range is within the Asiatic part of Turkey. Elevation ranges from sea level to 2000 m.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Caucasian squirrels have a dental formula of incisors 1/1, canines 0/0, premolars 1/1, and molars 3/3, totaling 20. They have four fingered fore feet and five fingered hind feet. Sex differences in body length or mass are not evident (Amr et al., 2006; Hayssen, 2008).

Their ventral fur usually has a reddish color and fur color changes in winter. Adult dorsal fur color in winter ranges from pale-blackish-grey to pale-reddish-buff. The dorsal fur color in summer varies from very light-reddish-grey to pale-blackish-grey. The ventral fur color in winter ranges from light-yellowish-buff to light-reddish-buff. The ventral color in summer varies from reddish-yellow to rich orange. Some individuals have ear tufts in winter, but these disappear in summer through autumn. (Albayrak and Arslan, 2006; Amr et al., 2006; Hayssen, 2008; Pamukoglu and Albayrak, 1996; Wauters and Dhondt, 1992)

Average mass: 335.3 g.

Average length: 200.0 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Albayrak, I., A. Arslan. 2006. Contribution to the Taxonomical and Biological Characteristics of Scirus anomalus in Turkey (Mammalia: Rodentia). Turkish Journal of Zoology, 30: 111-116.
  • Hayssen, V. 2008. Patterns of Body and Tail Length and Body Mass in Sciuridae. Journal of Mammalogy, 89/4: 852-873.
  • Pamukogul, N., I. Albayrak. 1996. The rodents of kastamonu province (Mammalia: Rodentia). Communications de la Faculté des Sciences de l'Université d'Ankara. Séries C, 14: 1-22.
  • Wauters, L., A. Dhondt. 1992. Spacing behavior of red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris: variation between habitats and the sexes. Animal Behavior, 43: 297-311.
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Ecology

Habitat

Caucasian squirrels inhabit coniferous and temperate mixed forests. Their nest are usually found in the tree hollows, and they seem to prefer pine trees (such as oak, walnut, and willow) to deciduous trees. Their nests are also found under rocks, inside heaps of stones, and in residential areas, such as graveyards and abandoned cattle sheds (Amr et al. 2006).

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species predominantly lives in mixed and deciduous forest, although it also occurs in coniferous forests (e.g., on the southern coast of Turkey) as well as rocky outcrops (Amr 2000, Demirsoy et al. 2006).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Caucasian squirrels are herbivorous. They mostly eat pine acorns, other seeds and fruits. They sometimes forage in residential areas, and some are observed scavenging food from garbage dumpsters. Their close relative Eurasian red squirrels, have similar diets to Caucasian squirrels, but it also eats berries and fungi. When food abundance is low, the diet of Eurasian red squirrels become varied, including birds’ eggs, tree bark, flowers, and invertebrates (Amr et al., 2006; Sadeghinezhad et al., 2012).

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore , Granivore )

  • Sadeghnezhad, J., Z. Tootian, G. Akbari, R. Chiocchetti. 2012. The Topography and Gross Anatomy of the Abdominal Gastrointestinal Tract of the Persian Squirrel (Sciurus anomalus). International Journal of Morphology, 30/2: 524-530.
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Associations

There little information regarding ecosystem roles of Caucasian squirrels. However, they eat seeds and fruits and therefore, likely have an important influence on the forest ecosystem as seed dispersers. Additionally, food remains are found in several ground burrows further supporting this hypothesis (Miyaki, 1987).

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

  • Miyaki, M. 1987. Seed dispersal of the Korean pine, Pinus koraiensis, by the Red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris. Ecologial Research, 2: 147-157.
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Little is known of predators of Caucasian squirrls. One study reports predation by large birds such as golden eagles or eagle owls. Many tree squirrels are eaten by many predators; Eurasian red squirrel are consumed by pine martens, wild cats, some owls, and raptors (De Cupere et al., 2009; Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005).

Known Predators:

  • De Cupere, B., S. Thys, W. Van Neer,, A. Ercynck, M. Corremans, M. Waelkens. 2009. Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) pellets from Roman Sagalassos (SW Turkey): distinguishing the prey remains from nest and roost sites. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 19: 1-22.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

No detailed information is available regarding communication of Caucasian squirrels. They do call, so they may communicate with sounds (e.g. warning calls) like other tree squirrels. During breeding seasons, the closely related species, Eurasian red squirrels, communicate with body posture and sounds including chucking calls and teeth chattering. Eurasian red squirrel females in estrus also give off a scent that males can detect during mating season (Amr et al., 2006; Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005).

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

There is no information available regarding average lifespan of Caucasian squirrels. Eurasian red squirrels live up to seven years in the wild and ten years in captivity. Since Caucasian squirrels inhabit some arid areas, water scarcity during the summer season can lower survival rates (Amr et al., 2006; Frentinos, 1972; Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005).

  • Farentinos, R. 1972. Social dominance and mating activity in the tassel-eared squirrel (Sciurus aberti ferreus). Animal Behavior, 20: 316-326.
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Reproduction

The mating system of Caucasian squirrels is currently unknown. However, a closely related species, Eurasian red squirrels, are well-studied. Eurasian red squirrel females in estrus give off a scent that males can detect during mating season. Males follow her for one or more hours, but males give up pursuit when she leaves their home range. Male’s home range size depends on their rank in dominance hierarchy, with dominant males holding larger ranges resulting in more chances to mate (Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005).

Mating System: polygynous ; polygynandrous (promiscuous)

There is no information available regarding general reproductive behavior of Caucasian squirrels, but their close relative, Eurasian red squirrels are well studied. Both males and females are sexually mature at 9 to 19 months old. Breeding season of Eurasian red squirrels is prolonged from December to January and August to September. Females are polyestrus and in season for only one day per breeding cycle. Mating peaks occur in winter and spring. The average gestation period in temperate tree squirrels ranges from 39 to 44 days, so it is assumed that gestation periods for Caucasian squirrels may fall within that range. Their close relative Eurasian red squirrels usually have two to five offspring per litter. Offspring have been weaned at eight to ten weeks (Lurz et al., 2005; Emmons, 1979; Mari et al., 2008).

Breeding interval: Caucasian squirrels breed twice yearly from December to January and August to September.

Breeding season: Caucasian squirrels mate in the winter and spring.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

No information on the parental investment of Caucasian squireels was found. However, Eurasian red squirrels males do not provide parental care. Females nurse and protect offspring in their nests. Maternal care may extend after the young are weaned (Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005).

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Emmons, L. 1979. Observations on Litter Size and Development of Some African Rainforest Squirrels.. Biotropica, 11(3): 207-213.
  • Lurz, P., J. Gurnell, L. Magris. 2005. Sciurus vulgaris. Mammalian Species, 769: 1-10.
  • Mari, V., S. Martini, C. Romeo, A. Molinari, A. Martinoli, G. Tosi, L. Wauters. 2008. Record litter size in the Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy (n.s.), 19(1): 61-65.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Caucasian squirrels are considered to be in the least concern conservation status. However, population decline is reported in some areas of their distribution, such as in Turkey mainly due to fragmentation and loss of habitat. Illegal hunting also harms Caucasian squirrl populations (Amr et al., 2006; Yigit et al., 2012).

  • Yigit, N., B. Kryštufek, M. Sozen, A. Bukhnikashvili, G. Shenbrot. 2012. "Sciurus anomalus" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed November 15, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/20000/0.
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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Yigit, N., Kryštufek, B., Sozen, M., Bukhnikashvili, A. & Shenbrot, G.

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
In the core of the species' Mediterranean range (Turkey) S. anomalus is still abundant. In the Levant (margins of the range) declines are recorded, but no figures are available for decline rates there. In other marginal parts of its range it is also noted as declining (and is considered Endangered in Syria). There are threats from deforestation and hunting/poaching, but at the global level the population is not thought to be declining at a rate that would qualify the species as threatened or Near Threatened. Given its abundance in the core part of its range, it is here listed as Least Concern. Nevertheless, it is recommended that this species be monitored, particularly at the edges of its range to determine the rate of range shrinkage and overall population declines in the region.
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Population

Population
The species remains abundant in some parts of its range (e.g. Anatolian Turkey: N. Yigit pers. comm. 2007), although declines have been reported in other parts of its distribution. Anecdotal information suggests 'dangerous declines' in populations in Lebanon and Syria over the last few decades. A decline in Jordan has been noted leading the subspecies S. a. syriacus to be considered endangered there by Amr (2000). During a five month study during 1993 in suitable habitat in Israel only eight squirrels were encountered at two different sites. This number was considered low. Guides in the area thought numbers to be historically the lowest encountered and the authors considered the species to be 'nearly extinct' (Gavish 1993).

The species was considered abundant in Syria in the woods south of mount Hermon in 1866 (Harrison and Bates 1991). In Iraq in 1959, Hatt found the species near Sarsank, where up to twelve individuals occupied a single hollow tree (Harrison and Bates 1991).

Population density has not been quantified, but fluctuations apparently occur.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
In parts of its range, deforestation and hunting/poaching occur. Hunting and destruction of the forest habitat have reportedly caused numbers to decrease in Israel (Gavish 1993). In Turkey, it is not under serious threat at present (N. Yigit pers. comm. 2007).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Included in the EU Habitats Directive (92/43) IV 21/05/92; and the Bern Convention II 01/03/02, in parts of its range where these apply. Occurs in protected areas. Population monitoring is recommended, particularly in parts of the range where declines have been noted.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Little is known about the negative economic effects of Caucasian squirrels on humans. However, one study reports that they forage at residential gardens so they may have negative impacts on gardens (Albayrak and Arslan, 2006).

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Not much information of positive economic importance for humans is found, but some studies mention that people keep Caucasian squirrels, as a companion pet (Khazraiinia et al., 2008; Tootian et al., 2012; Masseti, 2010).

Positive Impacts: pet trade

  • Khazraiinia, P., A. Rostami, H. Haddadzadeh, S. Nassiri. 2008. Hematological Characteristics and Hemoglobin Typing of the Persian Squirrel (Sciurus anomalus). Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, 17(1): 44-48.
  • Masseti, M. 2010. Homeless mammals from the Ionian and Aegean island. Bonn zoological Bulletin, 57(2): 367-373.
  • Tootian, Z., J. Sadeghinezhad, M. Taghi Sheibani, S. Fazelipour, N. De Sordi, R. Chiocchetti. 2012. Histological and mucin histochemical study of the small intestine of the Persian squirrel (Sciurus anomalus). Anatomical Science International, N/A: 1-8.
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Wikipedia

Caucasian squirrel

The Caucasian squirrel (or Persian squirrel) (Sciurus anomalus) is a tree squirrel in the genus Sciurus found in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece (only on the island of Lesbos), Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. Its natural habitat is temperate broadleaf and mixed forests.[1]

Description[edit]

The species was identified by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1778 and named Sciurus anomalus,[1] although it has also been credited to Johann Anton Güldenstädt.[3] The common English name for the species is the Caucasian squirrel, also known as Persian squirrel.[1]

Samuel Griswold Goodrich described the Caucasian squirrel in 1885 as "Its color is grayish-brown above, and yellowish-brown below".[4] The Caucasian squirrel has a body length of between 20–30 centimetres (7.9–11.8 in) and can weigh between 200–1,000 grams (0.44–2.20 lb).[5]

Habitat[edit]

The species mainly lives in forested areas featuring coniferous and/or deciduous trees in Turkey and throughout the countries in the Middle East and Eurasian regions but the range also stretches as far south east as Iran and Iraq. In the Mediterranean, they are native to Gökçeada and Lesbos.[1] It is one of two species of the genus Sciurus to be found on Mediterranean islands.[3] The Caucasian squirrel lives in areas as high as 2,000 metres (6,600 ft).[1] They live in trees, where they make their dens. Their diet includes nuts, seeds, tree shoots and buds.[5]

A survey in 2008 found that the species remained abundant within Turkey, however declines are noted in population within the Levant region. The guides for a survey in 1993 in Israel stated that they considered the species to be nearly extinct within the area studied. Whilst the Caucasian squirrel is threatened by poaching and deforestation, the declines recorded are not sufficient to qualify them as anything other than "Least Concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.[1] Hunting of the species is banned by the Central Hunting Commission, and the Caucasian squirrel is protected by the Bern Convention and the EU Habitats Directive.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Yigit, N., Kryštufek, B., Sozen, M., Bukhnikashvili, A. & Shenbrot, G. (2008). Sciurus anomalus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  2. ^ Thorington, R.W., Jr.; Hoffmann, R.S. (2005). "Family Sciuridae". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. 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. ^ a b Masseti, Marco (2012). Atlas of Terrestrial Mammals of the Ionian and Aegean Islands. Boston: De Gruyter. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-3110254570. 
  4. ^ Goodrich, Samuel Griswald (1885). Johnson's Natural History 1. New York: A.J. Johnson & Co. p. 372. 
  5. ^ a b c "Appendix B1 - Mammal Species Dossier" (PDF). British Petrolleum. October 2002. Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
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