Ecology

Associations

Known predators

Spermophilus is prey of:
Bubo virginianus
Mustelinae
Canis latrans
Mephitinae
Taxidea taxus
Buteo jamaicensis
Lynx rufus
Accipiter gentilis
Martes americana
Gulo gulo
Ursus arctos
Strigiformes
Accipitridae
Vulpes vulpes
Red racer
Pituophis
Crotalus
Aquila chrysaetos
Buteo regalis
Buteo swainsoni

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)
USA: Arizona (Forest, Montane)
USA: Arizona, Sonora Desert (Desert or dune)
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)
USA: Montana (Tundra)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • D. L. Pattie and N. A. M. Verbeek, Alpine birds of the Beartooth Mountains, Condor 68:167-176 (1966); Alpine mammals of the Beartooth Mountains, Northwest Sci. 41(3):110-117 (1967).
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
  • P. G. Howes, The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World: A Brief Biology of the Giant Cactus Forest of Our American Southwest (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York; Little, Brown, Boston; 1954), from pp. 222-239, from p. 227.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 410 (1930).
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Known prey organisms

Spermophilus preys on:
Microtus ochrogaster
Helianthus
Agropyron
Agrostis
Stipa
Pinus
shrubs
grass
herbs
alpine vegetation
Schismus barbatus
Cactaceae
seeds of other plants
Larrea
Lepidium densiflorum
Senecio multicapitatus
Artemisia frigida
Bouteloua gracilis
Kochia
Decapoda
Carex
Sporobolus cryptandrus
Ratibida columnifera
Atriplex canescens
seeds
fungus forb/shrub
lichen forb/shrub
Coleoptera
Hymenoptera
Papilionoidea
Orthoptera
misc. fur
fin
feather
Arthropoda
Anas fulvigula

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)
USA: Arizona (Forest, Montane)
USA: Montana (Tundra)
USA: Arizona, Sonora Desert (Desert or dune)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • D. L. Pattie and N. A. M. Verbeek, Alpine birds of the Beartooth Mountains, Condor 68:167-176 (1966); Alpine mammals of the Beartooth Mountains, Northwest Sci. 41(3):110-117 (1967).
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
  • Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed February 16, 2011 at http://animaldiversity.org. http://www.animaldiversity.org
  • P. G. Howes, The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World: A Brief Biology of the Giant Cactus Forest of Our American Southwest (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York; Little, Brown, Boston; 1954), from pp. 222-239, from p. 227.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 410 (1930).
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Brown fat oxidation generates heat: ground squirrel
 

Fat cells in ground squirrels generate heat rapidly following hibernation by oxidizing brown fat.

   
  "Ground squirrels, which replenish their fat supplies regularly during hibernation, can awaken from their deep sleep in less than three hours. In this time, large amounts of fat are burned as fuel to raise the body temperature. This is accompanied by intense shivering and muscle contraction, which also generate heat. Much of the heat is derived from oxidation of brown fat, a kind of fat that contains many energy-producing cells. As much as 57 percent of the brown fat in ground squirrels is around their shoulders, with 14 percent in their neck, and most of the remainder in their thorax. This substance acts like an electric blanket, releasing heat to the heart and major blood vessels to warm them and speed the circulation of oxygen to the brain and other anterior organs, and then to the posterior body regions. During arousal, the anterior skeletal muscles receive over 16 times more blood than their counterparts in a fully awake animal, powering their shivering to produce heat for raising the body's temperature." (Shuker 2001:101)


"…Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a fat storage tissue  especially abundant in small mammals and newborn humans. BAT  is highly vascularised, full of mitochondria and burns fat to  produce heat in a special way. Maybe it could provide the  warmth the rodents require to survive winter in addition to  its supposed role in arousal? 

 The team found that the BAT of cold acclimated rats took up fatty  acids that were oxidised to generate heat. Amazingly, these  rats were up to 12 times better at the conversion than the  other rats. Additionally, while the other rats slowed their ventilation,  the cold acclimated rats increased their breathing rate to  better supply BAT with oxygenated blood and hence maintain their  temperature while being cooled.

 The authors decided that BAT is the true 'thermogenic machinery'  for non-hibernators…Scientists think BAT fat metabolism  that non-hibernators use to stay warm and remain alert during  cold conditions may have been one key to the evolutionary success  of early mammals." (Rummer 2010:vi)

  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Hauton D; Coneya AM; Egginton S. 2009. Both substrate availability and utilisation contribute to the defence of core temperature in response to acute cold. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 154(4): 514-522.
  • Rummer JL. 2010. Brrrown adipose tissue: special fat for cold critters. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213: vi.
  • Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
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Functional adaptation

Dikes prevent flooding: ground squirrel
 

The underground burrows of ground squirrels are protected from flooding during rain storms because the squirrels build circular dikes to divert water.

   
  "American ground squirrels, or prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) for example, build a circular dyke to keep rain from flooding their underground burrows." (Shuker 2001:65)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:201
Specimens with Sequences:169
Specimens with Barcodes:169
Species:24
Species With Barcodes:23
Public Records:124
Public Species:18
Public BINs:25
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Barcode data

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Wikipedia

Spermophilus




Ammospermophilus



Notocitellus





Urocitellus



Marmota



Spermophilus sensu stricto




Otospermophilus



Callospermophilus





Ictidomys




Poliocitellus




Cynomys



Xerospermophilus







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] 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.[2]

Species[edit]

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).

See antelope squirrel.
See prairie dog
See marmot.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

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