Sciurus anomalusCaucasian squirrel

Geographic Range

Caucasian squirrels are native to Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The southernmost recorded range of their distribution is the forest covered mountains of Jarash and Ajlum in Jordan (Amr et al. 2006). (Amr, et al., 2006)

Habitat

Caucasian squirrels inhabit coniferous and temperate mixed forests. Their nest are usually found in the tree hollows, and they seem to prefer pine trees (such as oak, walnut, and willow) to deciduous trees. Their nests are also found under rocks, inside heaps of stones, and in residential areas, such as graveyards and abandoned cattle sheds (Amr et al. 2006). (Amr, et al., 2006)

Physical Description

Caucasian squirrels have a dental formula of incisors 1/1, canines 0/0, premolars 1/1, and molars 3/3, totaling 20. They have four fingered fore feet and five fingered hind feet. Sex differences in body length or mass are not evident (Amr et al., 2006; Hayssen, 2008). (Amr, et al., 2006; Hayssen, 2008)

Their ventral fur usually has a reddish color and fur color changes in winter. Adult dorsal fur color in winter ranges from pale-blackish-grey to pale-reddish-buff. The dorsal fur color in summer varies from very light-reddish-grey to pale-blackish-grey. The ventral fur color in winter ranges from light-yellowish-buff to light-reddish-buff. The ventral color in summer varies from reddish-yellow to rich orange. Some individuals have ear tufts in winter, but these disappear in summer through autumn. (Albayrak and Arslan, 2006; Amr et al., 2006; Hayssen, 2008; Pamukoglu and Albayrak, 1996; Wauters and Dhondt, 1992) (Albayrak and Arslan, 2006; Amr, et al., 2006; Hayssen, 2008; Pamukogul and Albayrak, 1996; Wauters and Dhondt, 1992)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    335.3 g
    11.82 oz
  • Average length
    200.0 mm
    7.87 in

Reproduction

The mating system of Caucasian squirrels is currently unknown. However, a closely related species, Eurasian red squirrels, are well-studied. Eurasian red squirrel females in estrus give off a scent that males can detect during mating season. Males follow her for one or more hours, but males give up pursuit when she leaves their home range. Male’s home range size depends on their rank in dominance hierarchy, with dominant males holding larger ranges resulting in more chances to mate (Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005). (Lurz, et al., 2005)

There is no information available regarding general reproductive behavior of Caucasian squirrels, but their close relative, Eurasian red squirrels are well studied. Both males and females are sexually mature at 9 to 19 months old. Breeding season of Eurasian red squirrels is prolonged from December to January and August to September. Females are polyestrus and in season for only one day per breeding cycle. Mating peaks occur in winter and spring. The average gestation period in temperate tree squirrels ranges from 39 to 44 days, so it is assumed that gestation periods for Caucasian squirrels may fall within that range. Their close relative Eurasian red squirrels usually have two to five offspring per litter. Offspring have been weaned at eight to ten weeks (Lurz et al., 2005; Emmons, 1979; Mari et al., 2008). (Emmons, 1979; Lurz, et al., 2005; Mari, et al., 2008)

  • Breeding interval
    Caucasian squirrels breed twice yearly from December to January and August to September.
  • Breeding season
    Caucasian squirrels mate in the winter and spring.

No information on the parental investment of Caucasian squireels was found. However, Eurasian red squirrels males do not provide parental care. Females nurse and protect offspring in their nests. Maternal care may extend after the young are weaned (Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005). (Lurz, et al., 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

There is no information available regarding average lifespan of Caucasian squirrels. Eurasian red squirrels live up to seven years in the wild and ten years in captivity. Since Caucasian squirrels inhabit some arid areas, water scarcity during the summer season can lower survival rates (Amr et al., 2006; Frentinos, 1972; Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005). (Amr, et al., 2006; Farentinos, 1972; Lurz, et al., 2005)

Behavior

There is little information on the behavior of Caucasian squirrels. They are diurnal and stay active all year except in winter. They are most active in summer season. Caucasian squirrels become most active during the early morning to morning and during the two hours before sunset in early summer. Like other tree squirrels, they are territorial. The animal marks territories with urine and feces. The marks are renewed several times every day. Diurnal tree squirrels tend to be solitary during non-mating seasons, so Caucasian squirrels may be a solitary, as well (Abi-Said and Amr 2012, Amr et al. 2006, Farentinos 1972). (Abi-Said and Amr, 2012; Amr, et al., 2006; Farentinos, 1972)

Home Range

There is no information available regarding home range of Caucasian squirrels. However, Eurasian red squirrel males tend to have larger home range than females. Higher-ranking individuals have larger home ranges (Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005). (Lurz, et al., 2005)

Communication and Perception

No detailed information is available regarding communication of Caucasian squirrels. They do call, so they may communicate with sounds (e.g. warning calls) like other tree squirrels. During breeding seasons, the closely related species, Eurasian red squirrels, communicate with body posture and sounds including chucking calls and teeth chattering. Eurasian red squirrel females in estrus also give off a scent that males can detect during mating season (Amr et al., 2006; Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005). (Amr, et al., 2006; Lurz, et al., 2005)

Food Habits

Caucasian squirrels are herbivorous. They mostly eat pine acorns, other seeds and fruits. They sometimes forage in residential areas, and some are observed scavenging food from garbage dumpsters. Their close relative Eurasian red squirrels, have similar diets to Caucasian squirrels, but it also eats berries and fungi. When food abundance is low, the diet of Eurasian red squirrels become varied, including birds’ eggs, tree bark, flowers, and invertebrates (Amr et al., 2006; Sadeghinezhad et al., 2012). (Amr, et al., 2006; Sadeghnezhad, et al., 2012)

  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

Little is known of predators of Caucasian squirrls. One study reports predation by large birds such as golden eagles or eagle owls. Many tree squirrels are eaten by many predators; Eurasian red squirrel are consumed by pine martens, wild cats, some owls, and raptors (De Cupere et al., 2009; Lurz, Gurnell, and Magris, 2005). (De Cupere, et al., 2009; Lurz, et al., 2005)

Ecosystem Roles

There little information regarding ecosystem roles of Caucasian squirrels. However, they eat seeds and fruits and therefore, likely have an important influence on the forest ecosystem as seed dispersers. Additionally, food remains are found in several ground burrows further supporting this hypothesis (Miyaki, 1987). (Miyaki, 1987)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Not much information of positive economic importance for humans is found, but some studies mention that people keep Caucasian squirrels, as a companion pet (Khazraiinia et al., 2008; Tootian et al., 2012; Masseti, 2010). (Khazraiinia, et al., 2008; Masseti, 2010; Tootian, et al., 2012)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Little is known about the negative economic effects of Caucasian squirrels on humans. However, one study reports that they forage at residential gardens so they may have negative impacts on gardens (Albayrak and Arslan, 2006). (Albayrak and Arslan, 2006)

Conservation Status

Caucasian squirrels are considered to be in the least concern conservation status. However, population decline is reported in some areas of their distribution, such as in Turkey mainly due to fragmentation and loss of habitat. Illegal hunting also harms Caucasian squirrl populations (Amr et al., 2006; Yigit et al., 2012). (Amr, et al., 2006; Yigit, et al., 2012)

Contributors

Eri Nakanishi (author), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Laura Podzikowski (editor), Special Projects.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Abi-Said, M., Z. Amr. 2012. Camera trapping in assessing diversity of mammals in Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve, Lebanon. Vertebrate Zoology, 62(1): 145-152.

Albayrak, I., A. Arslan. 2006. Contribution to the Taxonomical and Biological Characteristics of Scirus anomalus in Turkey (Mammalia: Rodentia). Turkish Journal of Zoology, 30: 111-116.

Amr, Z., E. Edi, M. Qarqaz, M. Baker. 2006. The Status and Distribution of the Persian Squirrel, Sciurus anomalus (Mammalia: Rodentia: Sciuridae) in Dibbeen Nature Reserve, Jordan. Zoologische Abhandlungen, 55: 199-207.

De Cupere, B., S. Thys, W. Van Neer,, A. Ercynck, M. Corremans, M. Waelkens. 2009. Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) pellets from Roman Sagalassos (SW Turkey): distinguishing the prey remains from nest and roost sites. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 19: 1-22.

Emmons, L. 1979. Observations on Litter Size and Development of Some African Rainforest Squirrels.. Biotropica, 11(3): 207-213.

Farentinos, R. 1972. Social dominance and mating activity in the tassel-eared squirrel (Sciurus aberti ferreus). Animal Behavior, 20: 316-326.

Hayssen, V. 2008. Patterns of Body and Tail Length and Body Mass in Sciuridae. Journal of Mammalogy, 89/4: 852-873.

Khazraiinia, P., A. Rostami, H. Haddadzadeh, S. Nassiri. 2008. Hematological Characteristics and Hemoglobin Typing of the Persian Squirrel (Sciurus anomalus). Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, 17(1): 44-48.

Lurz, P., J. Gurnell, L. Magris. 2005. Sciurus vulgaris. Mammalian Species, 769: 1-10.

Mari, V., S. Martini, C. Romeo, A. Molinari, A. Martinoli, G. Tosi, L. Wauters. 2008. Record litter size in the Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy (n.s.), 19(1): 61-65.

Masseti, M. 2010. Homeless mammals from the Ionian and Aegean island. Bonn zoological Bulletin, 57(2): 367-373.

Miyaki, M. 1987. Seed dispersal of the Korean pine, Pinus koraiensis, by the Red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris. Ecologial Research, 2: 147-157.

Pamukogul, N., I. Albayrak. 1996. The rodents of kastamonu province (Mammalia: Rodentia). Communications de la Faculté des Sciences de l'Université d'Ankara. Séries C, 14: 1-22.

Sadeghnezhad, J., Z. Tootian, G. Akbari, R. Chiocchetti. 2012. The Topography and Gross Anatomy of the Abdominal Gastrointestinal Tract of the Persian Squirrel (Sciurus anomalus). International Journal of Morphology, 30/2: 524-530.

Tootian, Z., J. Sadeghinezhad, M. Taghi Sheibani, S. Fazelipour, N. De Sordi, R. Chiocchetti. 2012. Histological and mucin histochemical study of the small intestine of the Persian squirrel (Sciurus anomalus). Anatomical Science International, N/A: 1-8.

Wauters, L., A. Dhondt. 1992. Spacing behavior of red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris: variation between habitats and the sexes. Animal Behavior, 43: 297-311.

Yigit, N., B. Kryštufek, M. Sozen, A. Bukhnikashvili, G. Shenbrot. 2012. "Sciurus anomalus" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed November 15, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/20000/0.