Citellus


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Related to Citellus: souslik

Citellus

 

(also Spermophilus), susliks, a genus of rodents of the family Sciuridae. The body length is 20–40 cm, and the tail length is usually less than half the body length. The coloration ranges from sandy ocher to brownish gray. The upperparts frequently have dark ripples and barely distinct stripes or spots.

Susliks are found in the northern hemisphere at elevations to 3,500 m; they prefer open habitats in plains, tundras, or mountains. Of the approximately 20 species, ten occur in the USSR. The most common species are the spotted suslik (C. suslica), which is found in the steppes of the European USSR, C. fulvus, which occurs in the deserts of Kazakhstan and Middle Asia, and C. undulatus, which inhabits the plains, mountain steppes, and mountain meadows of Central Siberia and the Primor’e.

Susliks are active during the day. They hibernate during the winter and live mostly in colonies. When alarmed, susliks stand still and emit peculiar whistling sounds. Their diet consists of both the aboveground and underground parts of plants. The animals also store seeds. One litter, containing five to eight young, is born each year.

Many susliks are serious pests of grain crops; they also are the natural carriers of the causative agents of several diseases. Large species are hunted for their fur. Fossil remains are known from the Miocene.

REFERENCES

Mlekopitaiushchie fauny SSSR, part 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
Zhizrí zhivotnykh, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.

I. M. GROMOV