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European Souslik

Spermophilus citellus (Linnaeus 1766)

Brief Summary

    European ground squirrel: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia

    The European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus), also known as the European souslik, is a species from the squirrel family, Sciuridae. It and the speckled ground squirrel (Spermophilus suslicus) are the only European representatives of the genus Spermophilus. Like all squirrels, it is a member of the rodent order. It is to be found throughout eastern Europe from southern Ukraine, to Asia Minor, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and north as far as Poland but the range is divided in two parts by the Carpathian Mountains.

    The European ground squirrel grows to a length of approximately 20 cm (8 in) and a weight of approximately 300 grams (11 oz). It is a diurnal animal, living in colonies of individual burrows in pastures or grassy embankments. The squirrels emerge during the day to feed upon seeds, plant shoots and roots or flightless invertebrates. The colonies maintain sentinels who whistle at the sight of a predator, bringing the pack scurrying back to safety.

    Breeding takes place in early summer when a single litter of five to eight young is borne. The European ground squirrel hibernates between autumn and March, the length of time depending on the climate. In preparation they will build up reserves of brown fat during the late summer.

Comprehensive Description

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Southeast Germany; Czech Republic; Slovakia; Southwest Poland through Southeast Europe to European Turkey; Moldova; Ukraine

    Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The European souslik has a slender but strong body. The legs are relatively short; the forelegs and hind legs are about the same length (Parker, 1990). The back is yellow-gray and densily covered by whitish-yellow speckles or dots. The dots disappear on the sides of the body, and the belly is yellow. The chin and the throat are white. The European souslik has short and smooth body hair which becomes straighter and stiffer in winter (Parker, 1990). The external ears of the European souslik are flat. The forehead is broad and flat, causing the large eyes to be far apart. The cheek pouches are rather small. The tail is short, measuring about 3.8-7.4cm, and is coated with hair (Parker, 1990).

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

    Average mass: 217 g.

    Average basal metabolic rate: 1.272 W.

Habitat

    Habitat
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    European sousliks inhabit open landscapes. They prefer to live in prairies and steppes, rocky country, open woodlands, abandoned farms, and desert mountain ranges (Nowak, 1991). They avoid wet areas, the banks of permanent waters, or any type of wet areas created by accumulated water. (Parker, 1990). They are not found in areas with a dense forest cover (Nowak, 1991).

    Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; mountains

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The European souslik feeds primarily on vegetation, nuts, seeds, and grains; however, individuals may also consume small invertebrates, small vertebrates, and birds'eggs (Emanoil, 1994; Nowak, 1991).

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
    provided by AnAge articles
    Maximum longevity: 6.7 years (captivity)
    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    6.7 years.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The gestation period of the European souslik is 25-26 days. European sousliks mate only once a year, producing 2-9 youngs per birth. The offspring are born naked; the eyes and the ears are still closed. The weaning period is about 30 days, and the males hardly participate in the weaning of a litter. European sousliks reach sexual maturity in 1 year (Parker, 1990).

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

    Average gestation period: 27 days.

    Average number of offspring: 6.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male:
    314 days.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female:
    314 days.

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The European souslik has been declining rapidly in Europe because of the destruction of habitat through intensification of agriculture and large-scale reallotment of land. The species may now be extinct in some area. European sousliks are protected in Hungary and Poland. However, throughout this range, edge populations are steadily decreasing (Emanoil, 1994). Although European sousliks are disappearing in Europe, they are still common in other countries (Parker, 1990).

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

Other Articles

    Untitled
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The European souslik is also known as plain squirrel because its inconspicuous coloration makes its silhouette blend with the surroundings. Spermophilus citellus is sometimes known as Citellus citellus.