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This is a relatively small genus, palm squirrels and allies, in the subfamily Calloscurinae comprising six recognised species.  Funambulus palmarum, F. layardi, F. pennantii, F. tristriatus F. sublineatus and F. obscurus.

F. pennantii, the northern palm squirrel has the widest distribution, extending through much of northern India into Nepal but not beyond the Brahmaputra/Gangetic valley in the East.  It extends westwards into Pakistan and Iran,  it lives in scrub forest, dessert scrub and in the vicinity of human settlement and was only recognised as separate from F. palmarum around 1905.  This species has been introduced to Australia with a small population in Perth that is kept under control.

F. palmarum, the Indian palm squirrel occupies most of southern India from a horizontal line roughly placed at Gujerat, extendint to the island of Sri Lanka.  It is generally noisy and a commensal of man but also occupies cultivated land such as coconut and forest.

F. tristriatus, the three striped jungle squirrel is found in the Western ghats of India and is endemic there.  This species is relatively unknown and much in need of work as it is confused with above. It is the largest member of the genus and among the most colorful.

F. sublineatus was until recently (see citation Dissanayake and Oshida (2012) thought to consist of two subspecies, F. s. sublineatus in India and F. s. obscurus in Sri Lanka, but has now been split.  They are very similar in appearance and the smallest species in the genus.  F. sublineatus is distributed in the Western ghats and southern India and endemic to that region.  F. obscurus is endemic to the wet zone forests of Sri Lanka.  This is a rare, vulnerable and little studied species.

F. layardi is a rather colourful endemic representative, confined to the wet forests of Sri Lanka.  It is dark brown with orange stripes and a wholly orange venter.

Overall the genus needs more work and Dissanayake's PhD theses (2008) revealed the possibility of more species, particularly in the F. palmarum/tristriatus complex.  Due to the difficulties of obtaining material from India and Sri Lanka, research on these squirrels is relatively slow and inactive.


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© Rajith Dissanayake

Supplier: Rajith Dissanayake

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