ground squirrel

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Related to Prairie squirrel: tree squirrel, Marmotini

ground squirrel,

name applied to certain terrestrial rodents of the squirrelsquirrel,
name for small or medium-sized rodents of the family Sciuridae, found throughout the world except in Australia, Madagascar, and the polar regions; it is applied especially to the tree-living species.
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 family. In North America the name refers to members of the genus Citellus and sometimes to the closely related genera Tamias (chipmunkchipmunk,
rodent of the family Sciuridae (squirrel family). The chipmunk of the E United States and SE Canada is of the genus Tamias. The body of the common Eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus, is about 5 to 6 in.
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), Cynomys (prairie dogprairie dog,
short-tailed, ground-living rodent, genus Cynomys, of the squirrel family, closely related to the ground squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. There are several species, found in the W United States and N Mexico.
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), and Marmota (marmotmarmot,
ground-living rodent of the genus Marmota, of the squirrel family, closely related to the ground squirrel, prairie dog, and chipmunk. Marmots are found in Eurasia and North America; the best-known North American marmot is the woodchuck, M.
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 and woodchuckwoodchuck
or groundhog,
common name of a North American species of marmot, Marmota monax. This large rodent is found in open woods and ravines throughout most of Canada and the NE United States. Its heavyset body is about 2 ft (60 cm) long, excluding the 6 in.
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). Citellus species are found in Asia, E Europe, and North America. In the Old World they are called sousliks. Other ground squirrel genera are found in Africa and S Asia. The approximately 30 North American species of Citellus are found W of Hudson Bay, from the Arctic Ocean to central Mexico. These ground squirrels have rounded heads, short ears and legs, and shorter, less bushy tails than tree squirrels. Their combined head and body length is 4 1-2 to 13 1-2 in. (11.4–33 cm) depending on the species; the tail is usually a third to two thirds as long. Most are gregarious, living in extensive underground burrows; they hibernate in colder parts of their range. Members of different species are found in prairie grasslands, arctic tundra, mountain meadows, open forest, desert, and scrub country. In some regions the ground squirrel is called gophergopher
or pocket gopher,
name for the burrowing rodents of the family Geomyidae, found in North America and Central America. The gopher is gray, buff, or dark brown. Its combined head and body length is 5 to 12 in.
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, a name more commonly applied to burrowing rodents of a different family. Primarily vegetarian in their diet, ground squirrels may become agricultural pests, but they destroy insects and mice as well as crops. Their tunnels cause landslides and erosion, but also serve to mix and aerate the soil. Ground squirrels are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Sciuridae.

Bibliography

See J. O. Murie and G. R. Michener, ed., The Biology of Ground-Dwelling Squirrels (1984).