Suslik (Spermophilus)

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Suslik

Susliks, also known as Spermophilus, are a unique genus of ground squirrels belonging to the family Sciuridae (rodents).

As defined traditionally, this genus was a species-rich one, and it ranged through Asia, Europe, and North America. However, this arrangement was found to be paraphyletic to the quite distinct marmots, prairie dogs, and antelope squirrels.

As a result of this, all the former Spermophilus species that are native to North America have been transferred to other genera, leaving only the Asian and European species as true Spermophilus.

Table of Contents

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Sciuridae
  • Tribe: Marmotini
  • Genus: Spermophilus

Habitat and behavior

Suslicks are typical ground squirrels, so it is expected that they live in open habitats such as meadows, grasslands, steppe , and semi-deserts, depend on the low plants for food, and use burrows as their nests and refuge.

Suslicks are diurnal , and they mostly live in small to large colonies, although it is not uncommon for some species to occur singly. They are mostly found in lowlands, but they are also well distributed in highlands.

One exciting thing about these animals is their ability to hibernate during the colder months every year (this lasts up to 81⁄2 months every year in some species). Also, some species in arid regions may aestivate during fall or the summer.

There is a mostly separated distribution of the various Suslik species, often by large rivers. Still, there are certain regions that are inhabited by up to three species, and on rare occasions, two species may form mixed colonies.

There are a few species that are known to hybridize in cases where their ranges meet or come into contact.

Appearance

Suslik

Spermophilus or susliks are overall grayish, yellowish, light orangish, or light brownish.

Although there are so many that are inconspicuously spotted mottled or feature orange markings on the head, they generally lack strong patterns, asides in the S. suslicus specie, which commonly features a brown upperpart with some bold white spotting.

Size

Size usually varies with suslik species, and they mostly have a head-and-body length of around  17–40 cm (6.7–15.7 in). Naturally, before hibernation, an S. fulvus ( the largest size) may weigh as much as 2 kg (4.4 lb) while the largest S. major may weigh up to 1.4 kg (3.1 lb).

Nevertheless, these rodents always weigh much less in the earlier parts of the year, and other slick species are much smaller in size, mostly below 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) even when they at peak condition right before hibernation.

When it comes to tail appearances, all susliks generally have a relatively short tail and that—depending on the exact species—is often around 10–45% of the head-and-body length.

Relationship with humans

It is not uncommon for ground squirrels to carry fleas that are capable of transmitting diseases to humans, so you can expect that from susliks. Also, these nutcrackers have been found to be destructive in tunneling right under human habitation.

You can learn more about other kinds of squirrels on this blog. Kindly let us know your thoughts.

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