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Overview

Distribution

Red-bellied squirrels naturally inhabit southern China, Malaya, and the lowlands and mountains of Taiwan. In 1935, 40 individuals were removed from Taiwan and introduced on the island of Izuoshima, about 100 km south of Tokyo, Japan. Later, 100 squirrels were taken from the Izuoshima population and moved 400 km west to Tomogashima Island. (Setoguchi 1990)

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Introduced , Native )

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Range Description

This species is widely distributed in northeastern South Asia, much of central and southern China, and mainland Southeast Asia. In South Asia, the species is known to occur in Bangladesh and northeastern India (Molur et al. 2005). It is widely distributed in the region. In China, it has been recorded from Sichuan, Yunnan, Guandong, Guangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, Hainan Island, Xizang, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan and Hubei (Smith and Xie 2008). It has been recorded from the island of Taiwan. In Southeast Asia, it is present in Myanmar, northern Thailand, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, eastern Cambodia and Peninsular Malaysia.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Callosciurus erythraeus are medium in size with adults reaching a total head and body length of up to 200 mm. They have strong claws on their fingers and toes, excellent for digging holes to cache a supply of nuts. The ankles have extreme rotational capability and the claws, which they sink into the bark of a tree branch or trunk as they run, ensure them a firm grip as they chase nimbly through the trees. With large, protruding eyes, red-bellied squirrels have sharp vision and can distinguish vertical objects particularly well -- a useful ability for an animal that spends much of its time in trees leaping from branch to branch. Because of eye location, they are able to see behind, overhead and underneath without turning their heads, giving them the ability to survey the area for any signs of danger. The eyes also contain cones within the retina, allowing Callosciurus erythraeus to see the bright colors of its surroundings. (NatZoo 1992)

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Average mass: 272 g.

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Ecology

Habitat

The habitat has a mean temperature of 15.8 degrees Celsius and mean rainfall of 1,455 mm. Vegetation consists of warm-temperate evergreen trees and woody plants with a high occurrence of fruiting vegetation such as the camellia and bayberry.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is diurnal and arboreal species typically occurring in subtropical montane evergreen and broadleaved forests, although in China it is also present in subalpine coniferous forests or in a mix of conifers and broadleaf trees at altitudes above 3,000 m asl (Smith and Xie 2008). It has been found to occupy tree hollows in mid high canopy. Very flexible in terms of habitat; Duckworth and Robichaud (2005) found in heavily degraded scrub landscapes with small degraded forest patches in far northern Lao PDR, It has a generation time of two to three years.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Similar to all tree squirrels, red-bellied squirrels rely heavily on a diet consisting of leaves, fruit, seeds, insects, nuts, acorns, and cones. These squirrels feed mainly in the trees, but do spend some time feeding on the surface. Clearly they rely most heavily on arboreal foods and procure most foodstuffs while keeping their place among the branches. Red-bellied squirrels are well adapted in that they rotate their dietary consumption based on the seasonal availability of the item. In winter, they consume primarily Camellia tree flowers, which bloom from October to June. Later the diet switches toward the greatest period of leaf consumption from April to May. In June their palate is suffused with the luscious fruits that are now abundant. And as fall comes around, red-bellied squirrels busy their jaws with the nutritiously profitable food source of ants that are still active above ground as opposed to the usual hoarding behavior. (Setoguchi 1990)

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore , Granivore )

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Associations

Red-bellied squirrels are important as seed dispersers of tree species.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Known prey organisms

Callosciurus erythraeus preys on:
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
16.1 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 17 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Red-bellied squirrels are sexually promiscuous. On the female's day of estrus, several males gather around her and begin vocalizing. These vocalizations are the beginning of mating bouts in which the males spar with one another to win the right to mate. The winner of the bout will often guard his mate for a short period of time, trying to ensure that he is the true fertilizer of the female's eggs. But if the number of challenging males gets to be too much, the "guard" usually leaves and she may mate (and usually does) with another individual.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

The female first scouts and then builds a nest in a suitable and relatively protected site. This behavior peaks in spring and autumn in accordance with the breeding seasons. In that nest, the female gives birth usually to several young.

(Setoguchi 1991)

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

Young are cared for and nursed by females in the nest until they reach independence.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Callosciurus erythraeus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Callosciurus erythraeus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

There is no threat to this species as they have been widely introduced from their ancestral home ranges to new localities such as Tomogashima Island. Numbers there have increased profoundly and these squirrels had colonized the whole island by 1959, only 5 years after being first introduced.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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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
Duckworth, J.W., Timmins, R.J. & Molur, S.

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

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, it occurs in a number of protected areas, has a tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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Population

Population
This is generally a locally common species. During a survey of Lao PDR in 1994-95, Evans et al. (2000) found this species to be common and widespread as did Duckworth et al 1994.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species. Hunting for consumption has depleted some South Asian populations (Molur et al. 2005).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It is known from the following protected areas in India: Eagle’s Nest Wildlife Sanctuary, Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary, Namdapha National Park, Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary, Sessa Orchid Sanctuary and Tale Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh (Molur et al. 2005). It Ispresumably present in many protected areas in China and Southeast Asia.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

The small negative effects of red-bellied squirrels lies primarily in their habit of gnawing on tree bark, sometimes killing the tree. Also their consumption of oil palm nuts has brought them into conflict with plantation owners who now hunt them as pests. (NatZoo 1992)

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Red-bellied squirrels are valuable for their ecosystem roles, particularly as seed dispersers.

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