Overview

Distribution

Range Description

Wide distribution range from Senegal, Guinea and Sierra Leone eastwards through much of West Africa to Sudan, Ethiopia, northern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and central Kenya. Not confirmed from Tanzania, though Kingdon (1974) gives a locality record from the north of Tanzania. There is also an isolated record from Mount Marsebeit in Kenya, a moist area where X. rutilus occurs. There is a small population in Morocco in the Souss Plain.
Recorded to 2,450 m (in Ethiopia; Yalden et al. 1996).
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Geographic Range

Xerus erythropus prefer habitats that are fairly dry. Savanas of eastern Sudan and southwestern Kenya, southwestern Morocco, southern Mauritania and Senegal are the native homes of Geoffrey's ground squirrels.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The coarse fur covering its body identifies this species. The fur is frequently tinted the color of the soil in which the animal is found, creating an array of color from brownish to reddish grey to yellowish grey. The pads of the feet lack fur. A few sparse white hairs may occupy the area surrounding the foot. A white, or buff, stripe appears on both sides of the body running from the shoulders to the hind quarters. The total length of the body is between 203 to 463 mm with a tail length of 180 to 274 mm. The tail is somewhat flattened and usually a shade darker than the rest of the body. The ears are small. Claws are present, long and slightly curved, but climbing trees is nearly impossible for Xerus erythropus.

Range mass: 300 to 945 g.

Range length: 203 to 463 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Wide habitat tolerance, occurring in forest (though more usually secondary forest than primary), swamp forest, mangroves and drier woodland formations. Typically found in cultivated lands in many parts of the range (e.g., Uganda, Morocco, Kenya, Liberia).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Geoffrey’s ground squirrels prefer open “savanna like” habitats. The climate in which they are found is dry. Africa’s open woodlands, grasslands, and rocky country are home to the majority of this species.

Range elevation: 1000 to 5000 m.

Average elevation: 3500 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

  • Key, G. 1990. Preharvest crop losses to the African striped ground squirrel, Xerus erythropus, in Kenya. Tropical Pest Management, 36/3: 223-229.
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Xerus erythropus are omnivorous. The diet consists of palm nuts, banana, pawpaw, seeds, pods, grains, yams and other roots, insects, small vertebrates, and bird’s eggs. Foods such as nuts and seeds are often stored around the burrows.

Animal Foods: mammals; amphibians; reptiles; eggs; insects

Plant Foods: roots and tubers; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Several predators of Xerus erythropus also share burrows with this species. Several mongoose species benefit from the burrows that have already been made by Geoffrey’s ground squirrels. In return, the mongooses offer protection from bird of prey and snakes that threaten the colony.

Xerus erythropus disperse seeds by caching their food. Stores are often forgotten and the seeds germinate.

Geoffrey’s ground squirrels serve as a host to ticks. It has also been discovered that Xerus erythropus are susceptible to trypanosomes in the blood and can carry rabies.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; creates habitat

Mutualist Species:

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Predation

The defense system of Xerus erythropus lies in their burrow structures. The burrows provide protection from predators when the alarm call has been heard. Geoffrey’s ground squirrels will often cautiously peep out of their burrows to search for the cause behind the alarm call. The main predators of Xerus erythropus are various carnivores such as raptorial birds and mongooses.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

  • Dobigny, G., J. Gautun, A. Nomao. 2002. A cytotaxonomic survey of rodents from Niger: implications for systematics, biodiversity and biogeography. Mammalia, 66/4: 495-523.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Vocalizations are an important form of communication. Squeaking and chirping indicate pleasure, protest and distress. A higher pitched chirping or chattering may suggest threats of higher alarm. Mating males and females communicate with one another through olfaction/phermones as well as vocalizations. Geoffrey’s ground squirrels have facial scent glands with which they mark their territory and their food.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Longevity of Xerus erythropus is limited by predation. Human disruption of habitats may also limit the lifespan, which averages 2 years in the wild.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
3 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
6 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
2 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
6.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 10.3 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen was still alive at 10.3 years of age (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Xerus erythropus live in social colonies. Within these colonies there are several females; males travel between colonies. Chirping and chattering vocalizatins are used by males to attract a mate. Defending mates is unknown in this species; most likely there is no defense of mates due to the fact that males never stay in one social colony for an extended period of time.

Mating System: polygynous

Breeding occurs year round, but is synchronized among the females of one particular social group. Gestation of Xerus erythropus is 64 to 78 days. The average litter number is about three young. Geoffroy’s ground squirrels have a high rate of litter loss with some 70% of all pregnancies failing to produce a litter. It is unknown when weaning occurs, but sexual maturity is attained at about one year.

Breeding interval: Female Xerus erthyropus breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Mating occurs throughout the year, but is often coordinated within social groups.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 6.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Range gestation period: 64 to 78 days.

Average time to independence: 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Average number of offspring: 3.5.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
365 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
365 days.

Young are cared for by the female. Males do not invest time in parental care because it is uncertain which young are genetically related to them. The females in social groups dig elaborate burrows for raising young. A burrow for young consists of a nesting area with soft, dried grasses and several emergency exits. These burrows are usually deeper than standard burrows. Females protect their burrows aggressively. They provide food for their young and often instruct the young in collecting food and avoiding predators. Time to weaning is unknown, but at about 1 year both male and female young become independent and sexually mature.

Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents; inherits maternal/paternal territory

  • Rosevear, D. 1969. The Rodents of West Africa. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History).
  • Ellerman, J. 1940. The Families and Genera of Living Rodents. London: Jarrold & Sons LTD.
  • Hanney, P. 1975. Rodents: Their Lives and Habits. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company.
  • Happold, D. 1987. Mammals of Nigeria. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Nowak, R. 2004. "Walker's Mammals of the World" (On-line). African Ground Squirrels. Accessed April 27, 2004 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/rodentia/rodentia.sciuridae.xerus.html.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Grubb, P., Oguge, N. & Ekué, M.R.M.

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

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern as this is a widespread species, common where it occurs (sometimes abundant), well represented in protected areas, and adaptable to human-modified landscapes.

History
  • 2004
    Least Concern
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/least concern
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
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No special status was found for Xerus erythropus.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
Common and widespread, and sometimes quite abundant (for example, in Kenya). In Sierra Leone, this was the most commonly seen squirrel (Grubb et al., 1998). Not common where it occurs in Morocco.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
No major threats. There is some human consumption in a few West African countries, although not so much in Kenya. They are regarded as a pest in some parts of their range. The species is almost domesticated and is bred in intensive production for food in Benin (M.R.M. Ekué pers. comm.).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Occurs in several protected areas throughout the range.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Farmers often try to protect their crops, such as yams, from Xerus erythropus. Open agricultural fields of roots and tubers are an extensive feeding ground for Geoffrey’s ground squirrels causing them to be classified as pests by farmers. As previously mentioned, Geoffrey's ground squirrels can be infected with trypanosomes and rabies.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (causes disease in humans , carries human disease); crop pest; causes or carries domestic animal disease

  • Logan, T., J. Cornet, M. Wilson. 1993. Association of ticks (Acari, Ixodoidea) with rodent burrows in northern Senegal. Journal of Medical Entomology, 30/4: 799-801.
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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Geoffrey’s ground squirrels make good pets. They tame readily and are often kept in houses, analogous to house cats in South Africa. In some parts of Africa Xerus erythropus are hunted for their meat.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food

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Wikipedia

Xerus erythropus

The striped ground squirrel (Xerus erythropus) is a species of squirrel native to Africa. It was first described by Geoffroy in 1803,[1][3] but the original publication may be unavailable, so that the binomial authority is today more often cited as "Desmarest, 1817".[2]

Description[edit]

Striped ground squirrels are moderately large ground squirrels, ranging from 22 to 29 centimetres (8.7 to 11.4 in) in length, with a tail that, at 19 to 26 centimetres (7.5 to 10.2 in), is nearly as long as the body. Adults weigh between 0.5 and 1 kilogram (1.1 and 2.2 lb). They have a coat of short, bristly fur, and are pale sandy to dark brown across most of the body, with whitish, nearly hairless, underparts. A narrow stripe of pure white fur runs down the flanks from the shoulders to the hips. The tail has hairs much longer than those on the body, which fan out to the sides, and are multi-coloured along their length, presenting a grizzled appearance. The ears are small, and the muzzle long, with a projecting, almost pointed, nose. The limbs are pale, with large feet and long, straight, claws. They can be distinguished from the otherwise similar Cape and mountain ground squirrels by the fact that female striped ground squirrels possess three pairs of teats, rather than just two.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Striped ground squirrels are found across Africa south of the Sahara and north of the tropical rainforest. They are found from the Atlantic coast in the west to Ethiopia and Kenya in the east, being absent in the Horn of Africa. They inhabit open or disturbed forests and savannah country, often near cultivated land, and, at the extremes of their range, coastal scrubland and semidesert regions.[2][4] Fossils attributed to the species have been identified from Pliocene Ethopia.[3]

Six subspecies are currently recognised:[3]

Biology and behaviour[edit]

Striped ground squirrels are diurnal herbivores, and spend almost their entire lives on the ground, although are capable of climbing into bushes to reach food. They eat a range of seeds, nuts, and roots, and can be an agricultural pest, eating crops such as cassava, yams, cotton bolls, peanuts, and sweet potatoes.[4] They may occasionally supplement their diet with eggs, insects, and other small animals. Their predators include servals, jackals, birds of prey, and common puff adders.[3]

They forage throughout home ranges of about 12 hectares (30 acres) in semi-arid terrain, but their ranges overlap and they make frequent forays into surrounding areas in search of food. They mark their territories using scent glands on their cheeks, which they rub onto stones and tree trunks, although they do not appear to defend them from intruders.[4]

The squirrels spend the night in burrows, which they dig with their large claws. Their burrows are usually simple in structure, with a central nest less than a metre below the surface, a single entrance tunnel, and a few blind-ending tunnels that almost reach the surface. The latter are used as escape routes, allowing the squirrel to rapidly break through to the surface; the main entrance tunnel is often also blocked with a temporary pile of dirt at night.[4] Burrows may also contain caches of food, although these are more commonly located some distance away and concealed beneath stones or dead leaves. They also bury their urine, but not their dung.[3]

Striped ground squirrels live alone, or in pairs, and greet other members of their species by sniffing each other nose-to-nose. They move with a jumping gait, frequently pausing to sniff or look around, and making longer leaps when they need to move more quickly. They normally hold their tail horizontally when moving, or upright when still, and can fluff it up into a "bottle-brush" when alarmed. They can make a chattering sound, similar to that of other squirrels.[3]

Courtship consists of chasing behaviour, and litters are of two to six young. They can live for up to six years in captivity.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b c Grubb, P., Oguge, N. & Ekué, M. R. M. (2008). Xerus erythropus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Herron, M.D. & Waterman, J.M. (2004). "Xerus erythropus". Mammalian Species: Number 748: pp. 1–4. doi:10.1644/748. 
  4. ^ a b c d Linn, I. & Key, G. (1996). "Use of space by the African striped ground squirrel Xerus erythropus". Mammal Review 26 (1): 9–26. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.1996.tb00144.x. 
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