At the word "squirrel" there is an association with a furry animal living in the forest, on trees. But there are other squirrels that hide in holes, like gophers.
These proteins are called "earth proteins". Ground squirrels belong to the genus of African ground squirrels.
Ground Squirrel Description
The body of the earthen squirrel is completely covered with hard, sparse hair, it does not have an undercoat. In winter, the coat becomes longer than in summer. The color of the back resembles the tone of cinnamon, while the color of different individuals may be lighter or darker. The skin is black. Underbelly, muzzle, sides of the neck and paws are white. On the sides of the body are white stripes stretching from the shoulders along the entire body to the hips. White stripes frame the eyes.
The ears of earthen squirrels are small. The tail is fluffy, but not round; in the dorsal part it is flattened. The skeleton of hair on the tail is black, and the ends are white. There are 2 black stripes on the tail.Cape earthen squirrel (Xerus inauris).
Sexual dimorphism is inherent in earthen proteins, but it is not pronounced. Females weigh about 400-600 grams, and males are slightly more than 422-649 grams. The body length of males is a maximum of 476 millimeters, and in females it does not exceed 446 millimeters.
Ground and habitat of ground squirrels
Ground squirrels live in southern Africa: Botswana, South Africa, Namibia. They are also found in the southwest and in the central part of the Kalahari desert.
They prefer semi-arid and arid areas. Their favorite habitat is the arid plateau of South Africa called the sandy velde. In addition, they are common in meadows with solid soil, in fields and in floodplains of rivers.Earthen squirrels have rare and hard fur; there is no undercoat.
Ground squirrel lifestyle
These rodents independently dig shallow holes that communicate with each other. A system of burrows and tunnels can occupy up to 700 square meters. These shelters are very reliable. The number of entrances to burrows can range from two to hundreds. In underground burrows, proteins are protected not only from predators, but also from high temperatures.
But earthen squirrels spend most of the day on the surface, where they seek food. To protect themselves from the scorching rays of the sun, rodents raise their fluffy tails so that a shadow falls on them from the body.
Ground squirrels love to bathe in dust to clean the fur coat and get rid of parasites.
The ground protein diet consists of plant foods: bulbs, roots, fruits, cereals, and the like. But also these rodents can be supported by termites. Squirrels extract roots from the earth with their sharp teeth and claws.Earthen squirrels crack solid food with sharp incisors.
Ground squirrels are rarely drunk, as they lack the moisture they receive from plants. These proteins do not stockpile, so they have to find food most of the day.
Meerkats and mongooses often hide in burrows of earthen squirrels, with which these rodents coexist peacefully and even warn each other about the danger. The main natural enemies of earthen squirrels are snakes, jackals and monitor lizards. Squirrels can instantly smell the approaching predator. If even near the burrow there is just the excrement of the predator, then the squirrel will be careful and get out of the shelter very slowly.
If a predator attacks the squirrel, then it demonstrates defensive behavior: individuals gather in a crowd and lunges towards the enemy, pointing their tails on him. If the predator retreats, the squirrels also run away, but in some cases these brave rodents completely drive the enemy away.Ground squirrels cohabit with meerkats.
Earthen Squirrel Family Life
Although, in females, puberty occurs at 6 months, their first babies appear not earlier than a year. The female gives birth to 2 to 6 naked squirrels that weigh only 20 grams and need maternal care, since they are completely helpless.
All females of the colony take care of the young, and males are not allowed to this responsible occupation.
Groups consist of 2-3 adult females and their babies under the age of 2 years. When young individuals become older than 2 years old, they are expelled from the colony so that they create new families. This helps to improve genetic metabolism.
Males live in separate colonies, numbering up to 19 individuals. In groups of males, hierarchical relations are highly developed, in contrast to females, in which equality reigns. Social status is determined by age and victories in battles.
Fights in males of earthen squirrels are bloodless, they organize jumping competitions and thus determine the strongest. The most experienced adult male is allowed to mate. Communities of males migrate long enough in search of females. Their mating season occurs year-round, but the peak falls on the winter dry months.When attacked by a predator, the protein occupies a defensive position.
Ground squirrels use sounds to communicate with each other. When they notice danger, they whistle, warning all members of the group. There are two types of whistles: medium height, which warns of a threat and piercing, reporting a serious danger. All individuals react to a piercing sound instantly, and a medium-pitch sound does not require such an emergency reaction.
When they arrange fights among themselves, they make warlike growling sounds, and the youngsters chirp, inviting them to play.
If squirrels don't like something, and they protest, then they squeak.
The value of ground squirrels
These rodents can cause damage to crops, but, despite this, they are useful animals, as they are an important component of the ecosystem of the planet. Today's ground squirrel populations are not at risk.