dcsimg

Untitled

provided by Animal Diversity Web

The origin and meaning of arctic ground squirrel’s scientific name, Spermophilus parryii, is two part. Spermophilus means seed lover, and parryii was chosen by northern explorer Sir John Richardson, after the American botanist and explorer, Dr. C. C. Parry (1823 to 1890) (Forsyth 1999). The indigenous Inuits call the squirrel sik-sik or sik-rik, after its chattering alarm call that they make when humans are near (Iwen 1999).

Arctic ground squirrel populations in North America have genetically diverged due to geographic barriers, and the nature of their highly philopatric lifestyle and patchy distribution. Currently there are eight recognized subspecies, six of which are divided into four geographic clades. The Southeast clade includes S. p. plesius, which has a subarctic distribution through southeastern Alaska, extending through the Yukon Territory and into the western Northwest Territories and northern British Columbia in Canada. The Arctic clade includes S. p. kennicottii, which is the northernmost species and is distributed north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska and in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The Beringia clade includes S. p. ablusus which inhabits the Seward Peninsula of Alaska, S. p. lyratus, which inhabits St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, and S. p. osgoodii, which inhabit a small area in central Alaska. The Southwest clade includes S. p. ablusus, which inhabit southwestern Alaska, S. p. kodiacensis, which inhabit the Kodiak and Semidi Islands in Alaska, and S. p. nebulicola, which inhabit the Shumagin and Chernabura Islands in Alaska. The other subspecies is S. p. parryii, which inhabit northern Canada through the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (Hall 1981, Galbreath et al. 2011). Recent studies have suggested that arctic ground squirrels evolved in Beringia during the last glacial period. The earliest fossils in North America are from the Yukon Territory in Canada, and date back to 740 thousand years ago. In contrast, the earliest fossil evidence in Siberia only dates back to 33 thousand years ago. This, along with recent molecular data that show three major evolutionarily distinct lineages consisting of the Arctic, Southeast, and Beringia/Southwest geographic clades, suggest that arctic ground squirrels evolved in North America and were separated into isolated clades by glacial ice expansion. During the late Wisconsonian, it is likely that populations migrated across the Bering land bridge, colonizing Siberia, before becoming isolated again at the end of the glacial period (Galbreath et al. 2011).

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Behavior

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrels engage in a form of altruism by giving alarm calls when predators are in the area. While the individual who gives the call experiences a higher predation risk associated with drawing attention to themselves, they are thought to benefit evolutionarily by protecting their relatives, and assuring their genes will be passed to subsequent generations (Yensen and Sherman 2003). It has been suggested that they have different calls for different predators. They appear to use a high-pitched whistle for aerial predators, which is difficult to pinpoint, and a guttural chatter for terrestrial predators (Woods 1980).

Males communicate their territories to other males by marking the boundaries with scent glands in their cheeks and back. Territoriality, as well as other confrontations, is resolved through violent contact that includes biting and scratching. Individuals are often seriously injured through such confrontations, some of which result in death. Initial social contact between individuals involves nose-to-nose contact and pressing against each other in various poses, in which the individuals smell and get a sense of one another. These interactions can end amicably or violently, depending on the situation (Woods 1980).

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

provided by Animal Diversity Web

As part of the Alaska State Department of Fish and Game’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, several subspecies of arctic ground squirrel have been identified as a G5T3 status which is, “vulnerable- at moderate risk of extinction due to a restricted range, relatively few populations (often 80 or fewer), recent and widespread declines, or other factors.” These subspecies include S. p. kodiacensis, S. p. lyratus, S. p. nebulicola, and S. p. osgoodi.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists arctic ground squirrels as a species of Least Concern. Their justification for this listing is that “this species has a large population size and a wide distribution. It is abundant in parts of the range. Although it is hunted for meat and skins for local trade, this is not thought to threaten the species as a whole” (Linzey 2008).

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Benefits

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Many species of ground squirrels serve as hosts to flea parasites that carry the sylvatic plague. However, it is unknown whether arctic ground squirrels are host to these species (Yensen and Sherman 2003). It is also possible that arctic ground squirrels could be vectors for the rabies virus, however, there have been no reported cases of rabies in arctic ground squirrels in Alaska (State of Alaska Department of Epidemiology 2011).

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Benefits

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrels are a main prey species of many economically valued fur-bearing and game species including, ermine, coyote, wolf, wolverine, lynx, red and arctic fox, and grizzly bear. Their pelts were also used in the manufacture of parkas, and by indigenous Alutiiq and Aleut peoples who valued them in making garments (Nowak 1999, Cook et al. 2010). In the last 30 years, arctic ground squirrels have also been extensively studied by researchers as an uniquely-adapted endothermic arctic mammal.

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; research and education

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Associations

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrels are a keystone species, having both top-down and bottom–up effects on ecological processes (Yensen and Sherman 2003, Barker and Derocher 2010). They are an important food source for many mammalian and avian predators. Many predator species may be dependent on them during low cyclic phases of other prey species (Barker and Derocher 2010).

Arctic ground squirrels are also important soil engineers. Through digging of their burrows they help to aerate and turn over the soil, bringing nutrients to the surface and breaking up the soil. They have been known to excavate up to 18 tons/ha/year of soil (Barker and Derocher 2010). Their burrowing has been shown to increase a soil’s water infiltration rates and holding capacity, cation and anion exchange capacity, organic matter content, nutrient levels, and seed germination rates. This increases plant productivity and species composition of microhabitats, which is a benefit to other arctic herbivores and grazers. Through continued use of burrow sites, their feces and urine fertilize the soil with nitrogen and phosphorus, which creates a positive feedback loop of increased vegetation, which leads to increased snow cover over the soil, which leads to warmer soil temperatures, which leads to increased habituation by arctic ground squirrels (Yensen and Sherman 2003, Barker and Derocher 2010).

Arctic ground squirrels also serve as a host to several parasites including the fleas, Oropsylla alaskensis and Oropsylla idahoensis, and digestive tract dwelling protists, Eimeria callospermophila, Eimeria cynomysis, Eimeria lateralis, and Eimeria morainensis (Hass et al. 1982, Seville et al. 2005).

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; creates habitat; soil aeration ; keystone species

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Oropsylla Alaskensis
  • Oropsylla Idahoensis
  • Eimeria Callospermophila
  • Eimeria Cynomysis
  • Eimeria Lateralis
  • Eimeria Morainensis
license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Trophic Strategy

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrels are generalist foragers, feeding on everything from plants, invertebrates, small vertebrates (including their own species), eggs, birds, and carrion (McLean 1985, Boonstra et al. 1990, Gillis et al. 2005a, Zazula et al. 2006, Cook et al. 2010). They have been observed to actively prey on the eggs and chicks of birds, as well as collared lemmings (Boonstra et al. 1990, Cook et. 2010). Plant matter makes up the majority of their diet however, and when caching food for winter stores, they use only plant material. They consume all parts of plants, depending on the species, including foliage, roots, seeds, flowers, and fruits. Commonly consumed plant families include: Polygonaceae, Juncaceae, Cyperaceae, Ranunculaceaea, Rosaceae, Brassicaceae, Caryophllaceae, Poaceae, Saxifragaceae, Salicaceae, Gentianaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Poaceae, Asteraceae, Plantaginaceae, Fabaceae, and Santalaceae (McLean 1985, Gillis et al. 2005a Zazula et al. 2006). They are known to selectively choose and cache certain species, dependent on habitat location (Gillis et al. 2005a).

Arctic ground squirrels have also been shown to select for a diet with moderate levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are incorporated into cell membranes. They play a critical role for hibernating animals that need to maintain certain levels of PUFAs in their diet, in order to maintain flexibility in cell membranes when body temperatures drop to subnormal levels. However, a diet too high in PUFAs results in increased lipid peroxidation, which produces lipid peroxides that damage cells. Therefore, arctic ground squirrels select foods that provide moderate levels of PUFAs in the fall before hibernation (Frank et al. 2008).

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; eggs; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Eats eggs, Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Scavenger ); herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore , Granivore ); omnivore

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Distribution

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrels are the northernmost species of ground squirrel. They occupy a Holarctic distribution ranging from the west coast of Hudson Bay to the west cost of Alaska in North America, and into eastern Siberia (Donker and Krebs 2011, Barker and Derocher 2010, Yensen and Sherman 2003, Karels et al. 2000, Buck and Barnes 1999a). Recent phylogeographic studies have identified four geographically divergent clades. The Arctic clade consists of arctic and subarctic populations that occur north of the Yukon River in northern Alaska and Canada. The Southeast clade includes populations south of the Yukon River, spreading into south-central Alaska and western Canada. The Beringia clade inhabits the Alaskan Seward Peninsula and St. Lawrence Island, stretching across the Bering Strait into Siberia. The Southwest clade occurs south of the Yukon River in Alaska, continuing west out onto the Alaska Peninsula and associated islands (Galbreath et al. 2011).

Most populations of arctic ground squirrels are indigenous, though a recent study has shown that many island populations near the Alaskan peninsula may be introduced, resulting from the presumed introduction by early indigenous peoples who valued them for their pelts. Likely introduced populations include several islands in the Kodiak archipelago, Semidi islands, and Shumagin islands, as well as confirmed introduced populations on Kavalga, Unalaska, and Amaknak islands in the Aleutians (Cook et al. 2010).

Range map at: http://mapservices.iucnredlist.org/IUCN/mapper/index.html?ID_NO=20488

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced , Native )

Other Geographic Terms: holarctic

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Habitat

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrels inhabit arctic and tundra habitats at northern latitudes and higher elevations, and boreal forest and alpine meadows at lower latitudes and elevations (Byrom et al. 2000, Donker and Krebs 2011). At their northernmost ranges, they contend with long cold winters where temperatures can drop below -20° Celsius for seven to eight months of the year, and where sub zero temperatures and snowfall are possible in every month of the year. In arctic environments, the growing season is short, lasting only six to ten weeks, and for most of the year arctic ground squirrels must cope with frozen soils, high winds, snow accumulation of 10 to 75 cm, and extremes of light and darkness (Buck and Barnes 1999a,b).

Arctic ground squirrels are colonial and live in shallow, subterranean burrow systems up to 20 m in length (Nowak 1999). In many populations, burrow depth is limited to less than 1 meter due to frozen soils (permafrost) (Buck and Barnes 1999b). Burrows serve as maternal dens, hibernacula, and refuges from predators and climatic conditions (Long et al. 2005, Barker and Derocher 2010). There are at least three distinct burrow types constructed and used by arctic ground squirrels. Duck holes are short tunnels with several exits that are used primarily as escape refuges. Permanently occupied single and double burrow systems consist of many multilevel tunnels, nest chambers, and exits. Double burrow systems are used by closely related breeding females as shared places to raise young. Hibernacula burrows are used during hibernation and can either be connected to existing burrow systems, or constructed separately elsewhere. These often have hidden entrances that are plugged with earth upon immergence for hibernation in the fall, and are not cleared until the animal emerges in the spring (Iwen 1999). Within the burrows they construct nests of lichens and dry grasses, which are 22.5 to 30 cm in diameter (Buck and Barnes 1999b). Habitats with sloped terrains, drained soils, and sparse vegetation, are preferred by arctic ground squirrels. Sites with wet soils are avoided due to their poor suitability for digging, and sites with hummocks or abundant tall or shrubby vegetation are selected against since they reduce the arctic ground squirrels ability to visually detect predators (Gillis et al. 2005b, Barker and Derocher 2010).

Populations of arctic ground squirrels are at their highest densities in arctic tundra and alpine environments, where they are mostly limited by food and burrow availability. In boreal forest populations, densities are lower, and they are limited mainly by a combination of predation and food supply. Boreal forests are considered suboptimal habitat due to an increased number of predators, and the reduced ability of the squirrels to detect predators. Not surprisingly, these areas have been shown to be a population sink for the species (Karels et al. 2000, Gillis et al. 2005b, Donker and Krebs 2011).

Range elevation: sea level to 900 m.

Average depth: burrows average 1 meter below the surface m.

Habitat Regions: polar ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; mountains

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Life Expectancy

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrel mortality sources include predation, disease, starvation, freezing, and death by conspecifics. Mortality during the first year of life is 54 to 74%. Survival is dimorphic, with females living longer than males. Increased male mortality is due to several factors. Males experience higher mortality rates that are associated with increased dispersal demands and risks, and aggressive interactions between males. Males also experience increased predation during the mating season due to their increased visibility associated with their increased activity. They also experience a higher overwinter mortality that is associated with competition for optimal hibernacula sites with females (Yensen and Sherman 2003). In contrast, highly philopatric individuals (mainly females) have a 73% survival rate, and dispersants (mainly juvenile males) have a 20 to 40% survival rate (Byrom and Krebs 1999).

Survival also varies depending on habitat and season. In the summer, survival is lower in the boreal forest than in the alpine habitat, due to greater predation rates in the boreal forest habitat. In winter, survival is higher in the boreal forest than in the alpine habitat, due to increased hibernation demands in the alpine habitat (Gillis et al. 2005b). Burrow site is also important for survival: burrow sites with good visibility, and deeper warmer burrows, result in increased survival (Buck and Barnes 1999b, Yensen and Sherman 2003).

Regulation of arctic ground squirrel populations is both density-dependent and density-independent. Annual mortality depends on: individuals obtaining variable or limited resources such as food and burrow sites, predator abundance and success, presence of infectious diseases, and climatic conditions such as temperature and snow depth (Yensen and Sherman 2003). Arctic ground squirrels will survive to a maximum of eight to ten years in the wild (Forsyth 1999).

Range lifespan
Status: wild:
8-10 (high) years.

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Morphology

provided by Animal Diversity Web

All arctic ground squirrels have a cylindrical body shape with short, powerful forearms and sharp claws adapted for digging, and short, strong hind limbs for propelling forward movement. They have four digits on their forefeet and five on their hind feet. Their feet have soft pads on the bottom surface that allow them to grip and manipulate food and earth (Nowak 1999, Yensen and Sherman 2003). Their dental formula is: I 1/1, C 0/0, P 2/1, M 3/3, and P3 is one-third to one-half the size of P4 (Hall 1981, Forsyth 1999). Arctic ground squirrels molt twice per year; in the spring after emergence from hibernation, and in the fall prior to hibernation. They have tawny or cinnamon dorsal pelage that is flecked with white spots. Their underparts are lighter in color, largely buff tawny in the summer and turning an even lighter buffy color with the fall molt. Their tail color matches their pelage at the base, fading toward darker colors at the tip (Hall 1981, Iwen 1999). The range of length for their skull, tail, and hind foot is 50.7 to 65.8 mm, 77 to 153 mm, and 50 to 68 mm, respectively (Yensen and Sherman 2003). They also have large internal membranous cheek pouches that are used to store and carry food. Females have four to six pairs of mammae (Nowak 1999).

Arctic ground squirrels are the largest of the ground squirrels with a mass of 524 to 1500 g, depending on sex and season. They range from 332 to 495 mm in length, with an average length of 390 mm (Woods 1980, Yensen and Sherman 2003). They are sexually dimorphic in size, and males average 740 to 1000 g and are longer in length, while females average 600 to 1000 g and are shorter in length (Buck and Barnes 1999b, Yensen and Sherman 2003, Hayssen 2008). They also have an enhanced ability to store fat, and for five to seven weeks preceding hibernation they will increase their fat stores to 30 to 41.5% of their total body weight (Frank et al. 2008).

Arctic ground squirrels are the northernmost hibernating terrestrial mammal and can achieve wide ranges of body temperatures and metabolic rates. This plasticity is an adaptation for surviving extended seasons of extreme temperatures and no food availability (Sheriff et al. 2011). Their upper critical body temperature is 36° Celsius, their lower critical body temperature is 18° Celsius, and their basal metabolic rate is 0.40 to 0.61 ml O2/g/h (Withers et al. 1979, Long et al. 2005). During hibernation they can drop their body temperature to -2.9° Celsius. They also have the lowest known minimum metabolic rate of any endothermic hibernator, reaching levels of 0.012 ml O2/g/h during torpor at ambient temperatures of 4° Celsius (Buck and Barnes 1999b, 2000).

Range mass: 524 to 1500 g.

Average mass: Males-800 Females-700 (Woods 1980) g.

Range length: 332 to 495 mm.

Average length: 390 mm.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.40-0.61 ml oxygen/g/hour cm3.O2/g/hr.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Associations

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrels are an important prey source for many arctic and boreal predators. Anti-predator adaptations include extreme vigilance while above ground and away from their protective burrows. While foraging, they will frequently sit or stand up on their hind legs to listen and look around them. When predators are in the area, arctic ground squirrels will give alarm calls to alert other family members. When an alarm call is given, individuals will likely run for the protection of their burrows (Yensen and Sherman 2003). Predation is a limiting factor in most populations and can influence their distributions, particularly within the boreal forest habitat. In the boreal forest, they are the third-most abundant small prey species, and during low cycles of the snowshoe hare cycle, many predators switch from hares to arctic ground squirrels, limiting populations even further (Karels and Boonstra 1999, Byrom et al. 2000). The preferred habitat of arctic ground squirrels is open areas with little vegetation, which allow them to see predators coming from greater distances (Yensen and Sherman 2003). Common predators of arctic ground squirrels include lynxes, coyotes, wolverines, red foxes, arctic foxes, wolves, grizzly bears, ermines, northern goshawks, great horned owls, red tailed and Harlens hawks, common ravens, long tailed jaegers, snowy owls, short eared owls, golden eagles, northern harriers, gyrofalcons, rouch legged falcons, and peregrine falcons (Buck and Barnes 1999a, Byrom et al. 2000, Barker and Derocher 2010).

Known Predators:

  • lynx (Lynx canadensis)
  • coyote (Canis latrans)
  • wolverine (Gulo gulo)
  • red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
  • arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus)
  • wolf (Canis lupis)
  • grizzly bear (Ursus arctos)
  • ermine (Mustela ermine)
  • northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
  • great horned owl (Bubo virginianus)
  • red tailed and Harlans hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
  • common raven (Corvus corax)
  • long tailed jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus)
  • snowy owl (Bubo scandiaca)
  • short eared owl (Asio flammeus)
  • golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
  • northern harrier (Circus cyaneus)
  • gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)
  • rough legged hawk (Buteo lagopus)
  • peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  • arctic ground squirrel (Spermophilus parryii)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Reproduction

provided by Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrels exhibit a female defense polygynous mating system (Yensen and Sherman 2003). Mating occurs in late April shortly after emergence from hibernation and lasts for approximately two weeks. Females are at maximal estrous three days following emergence and they are only receptive for a short, less than 12-hour period (Buck and Barnes 1999a, Lacy and Wieczorek 2001, Yensen and Sherman 2003, Donker and Krebs 2011).

Males typically defend a territory where multiple females reside. During this time, males are highly territorial and will act aggressively to all other males that enter their territory. Severe confrontations can occur where males will severely wound or even kill each other in defense of females (Lacy and Wieczorek 2001, Buck and Barnes 2003). Males will mate with multiple females, and extra-pair copulations between females and multiple males also occur. Evidence of copulatory plugs in females has been observed. The first male a female mates with is generally the one that sires the most young in her litter (over 90%), though multiple paternity in litters is common, and females have been observed to mate with up to four males (Lacy et al. 1997, Lacy and Wieczorek 2001, Yensen and Sherman 2003).

During and after the breeding season, males experience a trade-off between reproduction and survival. During breeding, males compete for territory ownership and access to females. During this period of intense competition, the males are highly active and often do not feed, resulting in high levels of stress, and body mass losses of up to 21%. Many males will die after the breeding season as a result of compromised immune systems and poor body condition (Barnes 1996, Boonstra et al. 2001, Lacy and Wieczorek 2001).

After the breeding season, sex ratios become skewed towards females. Females are highly philopatric and display nepotism, resulting in groups of closely-related, cooperative females living together in close or connected burrow systems (kin clusters). They often clump their litters together and share in the maternal responsibilities. This is thought to serve two main functions: the first being shared duties in watching for predators, the second being to protect the young from infanticidal males (McLean 1982,1983, Nowak 1999, Yensen and Sherman 2003). The incidence of infanticide by males in arctic ground squirrels is high. Immigrant males that are looking to establish new territories are most likely to engage in infanticide. Males target young that they have most likely not sired, and litters are attacked both pre- and post-emergence from the burrow. Females will fight to protect their young, and it is suspected that a function of intense male territoriality is to protect the young that they have most likely sired from other infanticidal males (McLean 1983).

Mating System: polygynous ; polygynandrous (promiscuous) ; cooperative breeder

Arctic ground squirrels breed in April during a two-week period shortly following emergence from hibernation (Donker and Krebs 2011). Females give birth to one litter per year in mid-May following a 25 to 30-day gestation period (Hayssen 2008, Donker and Krebs 2011, Williams et al. 2011). Litters range from two to ten altricial pups that are born hairless, toothless, blind, with unopened ears, and incapable of thermoregulation (Yensen and Sherman 2003, Williams et al. 2011). After two days hair begins to appear, and they are fully furred by the tenth day (Iwen 1999). Lactation lasts for 28 to 35 days, and pups come above ground around the 27th day in mid-June. Weaning mass is approximately 199 g (Hayssen 2008, Williams et al. 2011). Within five to six weeks, the pups undergo a six to ten fold increase in body size, reaching 80% of their adult weight (Yensen and Sherman 2003). At eight to ten weeks, sexual dimorphism becomes apparent, and the juveniles disperse at this time (Byrom and Krebs 1999, Yensen and Sherman 2003). A rapid growth rate of the young is necessary to ensure that they are able to survive the coming hibernation season (Yensen and Sherman 2003). The young are reproductively active by the following spring (Lacy et al. 1997).

Breeding interval: Arctic ground squirrels breed once yearly

Breeding season: Arctic ground squirrels breed in April for a two-week period.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 10.

Average number of offspring: 4.

Range gestation period: 25 to 30 days.

Average gestation period: 28 days.

Range weaning age: 28 to 35 days.

Average weaning age: 30 days.

Average time to independence: 6-7 weeks.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Arctic ground squirrel females spend the majority of their time underground with their young during lactation. They will emerge several times a day for short foraging bouts before returning to their young (Williams et al. 2011). Females will form kin clusters with other closely-related females, where they will clump their young together and share in the maternal responsibilities of watching for predators and defending the young against conspecifics (McLean 1982, 1983, Nowak 1999, Yensen and Sherman 2003). Mothers will care for their young for another one to two weeks following weaning and emergence from the burrow (Iwen 1999). Paternal parental investments are minimal and may be restricted to territory defense surrounding their females and sired young (McLean 1983).

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents

license
cc-by-nc-sa-3.0
copyright
The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Torre, N. 2013. "Spermophilus parryii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spermophilus_parryii.html
author
Nicole Torre, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks
editor
Laura Podzikowski, Special Projects
original
visit source
partner site
Animal Diversity Web

Arctic ground squirrel

provided by wikipedia EN

The Arctic ground squirrel (Urocitellus parryii) (Inuktitut: ᓯᒃᓯᒃ, siksik)[2] is a species of ground squirrel native to the Arctic and Subarctic of North America and Asia. People in Alaska, particularly around the Aleutians, refer to them as "parka" squirrels, most likely because their pelt is good for the ruff on parkas and for clothing.[3]

Taxonomy

Subspecies listed alphabetically.[4]

  • U. p. ablusus Osgood, 1903
  • U. p. kennicottii Ross, 1861 – Barrow ground squirrel (northern Alaska, northern Yukon, and northern Northwest Territories)
  • U. p. kodiacensis Ross, 1861
  • U. p. leucostictus Brandt, 1844
  • U. p. lyratus Hall and Gilmore, 1932
  • U. p. nebulicola Osgood, 1903
  • U. p. osgoodi Merriam, 1900
  • U. p. parryii Richardson, 1825
  • U. p. plesius Osgood, 1900
  • U. p. stejnegeri J. A. Allen, 1903

Description

The Arctic ground squirrel has a beige and tan coat with a white-spotted back. This squirrel has a short face, small ears, a dark tail and white markings around its eyes. Arctic ground squirrels undergo a coat change from summer to winter. Summer coats include red/yellow colorations along the cheeks and sides of the animal. In fall, these red patches are replaced with silvery fur. The average length of an Arctic ground squirrel is approximately 39 cm (15 in). Since Arctic ground squirrels undergo drastic seasonal changes in body mass, it is difficult to give an average mass,[5] but for adult females it is close to 750 g (26 oz), however, males generally are around 100 g (3.5 oz) heavier than females.[6]

Distribution and habitat

The Arctic ground squirrel can be found in regions of Northern Canada ranging from the Arctic Circle to northern British Columbia, and down to the southern border of the Northwest Territories, as well as Alaska and Siberia.[1]

The Arctic ground squirrel is native to the North American Arctic tundra, where its main habitats are on mountain slopes, river flats, banks, lakeshores and tundra ridges of the arctic tundra. Ground squirrels live in sandy soil due to easy digging and good drainage.[7] Arctic ground squirrels make shallow burrows in areas where the permafrost does not prevent them from digging.[8] The Arctic ground squirrel inhabits dry Arctic tundra and open meadows in the most southern habitats of this species.[6]

 src=
On tundra, Kugluktuk, Nunavut

Behaviour

 src=
20,000-year-old Arctic ground squirrel mummy

The diurnal Arctic ground squirrel lives on the tundra and is prey to the Arctic fox, the red fox, the wolverine, Canada lynx, Eurasian lynx, the brown bear, and eagles. It is one of the few Arctic animals, along with their close relatives the marmots[9] and the un-related little brown bat, that hibernate.[10] In the summer it forages for tundra plants, seeds, and fruit to increase body fat for its winter hibernation. By late summer the male Arctic ground squirrel begins to store food in its burrow so that in the spring[11] it will have edible food until the new vegetation has grown. The burrows are lined with lichens, leaves, and muskox hair.

Communication between squirrels is done through both vocal and physical means. When they meet, nose to nose contact is made or other body parts are pressed together. The "tsik-tsik" calls are made in response to threats and vary as between different predators. Deep guttural sounds are used to indicate land-based predators while short "band whistle" chatter indicates danger from the air.[6]

Hibernation

The Arctic ground squirrel hibernates over winter from early August to late April in adult females and from late September to early April for adult males,[12] at which time it can reduce its body temperatures from 37 °C (99 °F) to as little as −3 °C (27 °F).[13] During hibernation, its core body temperature reaches temperatures down to −2.9 °C (26.8 °F)[14] and its heart rate drops to about one beat per minute. Peripheral, colonic, and blood temperatures become subzero. The best theory as to why the squirrel's blood doesn't freeze is that the animal is able to cleanse their bodies of Ice nucleators which are necessary for the development of ice crystals. In the absence of ice nucleators, body fluids can remain liquid while in supercooled state. This process is being studied with the hope that mechanism present in arctic ground squirrels may provide a path for better preservation of human organs for transplant.[15] The connections between brain cells also wither away in this state. The damage should have resulted in death, but research on related species show that these connections regrow after waking up. In the warmer months, the squirrel is active during the day.

Diet

This squirrel feeds on grasses, sedges, mushrooms, bog rushes, bilberries, willows, roots, stalks, leaves, leaf buds, flowers, catkins, and seeds. They will also eat insects, and occasionally they will even feed on carrion (such as mice, snowshoe hares and caribou)[16] as well as juvenile Arctic ground squirrels.[17] Sometimes these squirrels carry food back to their den in their cheeks.[6]

Reproduction

During the mating season, males engage in male-male aggressive encounters for mating rights.[18]

Arctic ground squirrels live individually in burrow systems. Mating occurs between mid-April and mid-May (depending on latitude) after winter hibernation. Mating includes male-male competition for access to females, and litters are typically sired by multiple males. Gestation is approximately 25 days, and results in a litter of 5 to 10, 10 g (0.35 oz) hairless pups. After 6 weeks the pups are weaned and this is followed by rapid growth to prepare for the upcoming winter.[6]

Conservation

 src=
Arctic ground squirrel in Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Although Environment Yukon has not estimated their population size, their conservation status is currently said to be "secure" (Environment Yukon 2013).[11] The Arctic ground squirrel is classified as least concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (Arkive 2013).[19]

References

  1. ^ a b Cassola, F. (2016). "Urocitellus parryii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T20488A22262403. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T20488A22262403.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Welcome to Tusaalanga | Inuktut Tusaalanga". tusaalanga.ca. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  3. ^ Antarctica and the Arctic Circle: A Geographic Encyclopedia of the Earth's Polar Regions
  4. ^ Urocitellus parryii, MSW3
  5. ^ Buck, C.L.; Barnes, B.M. (1999). "Annual cycle of body composition and hibernation in free-living arctic ground squirrels". Journal of Mammalogy. 80 (2): 430–442. doi:10.2307/1383291. JSTOR 1383291.
  6. ^ a b c d e Animal Diversity Web
  7. ^ Nadler C, Hopkins RS (1976). Patterns of evolution and migration in the arctic ground squirrel, Spermophilus parryii (Richardson). [Internet]. Chicago (ZL) U.S.A.: Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Medical School, and the University of Kansas, Lawrence (KS) U.S.A.: Museum of Natural History and Department of Systematics and Ecology; [updated 1976 Oct 20; cited 2013 Nov 10]. Available from: http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/pdf/10.1139/z77-097.
  8. ^ "BBC Nature - Arctic ground squirrel videos, news and facts". BBC Earth. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  9. ^ Alaska Marmot Archived June 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ The Long Sleep: Which Animals Hibernate?
  11. ^ a b "Arctic Ground Squirrel". Environment Yukon. 3 March 2015. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  12. ^ Buck, C.L.; Breton, A.; Kohl, F.; Toien, O.; Barnes, B.M. (2008). "Overwinter body temperature patterns in free-living Arctic Ground Squirrels (Spermophilus parryii)". Hypometabolism in Animals: Hibernation, Torpor and Cryobiology: 317–326.
  13. ^ Barnes, Brian M. (1989-06-30). "Freeze Avoidance in a Mammal: Body Temperatures Below 0°C in an Arctic Hibernator" (PDF). Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 244 (4912): 1593–1595. doi:10.1126/science.2740905. PMID 2740905. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-16. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  14. ^ Liu Y, Hu W, Wang H, Lu M, Shao C, Menzel C, Yan Z, Ying L, Zhao S, Khaitovich P, Liu M, Chen W, Barnes BM, and Yan J: Genomic analysis of miRNAs in an extreme mammalian hibernator, the Arctic Ground Squirrel. Physiological Genomics Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine 42A:39-51. (2010)
  15. ^ Asher, Claire. "When your veins fill with ice". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  16. ^ Torsten Bernhardt. "Canadian Biodiversity: Species: Mammals: Arctic Ground Squirrel". Canadian Biodiversity. Redpath Museum; McGill University. Archived from the original on 14 June 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  17. ^ McLean, Ian G (1983). "Paternal behaviour and killing of young in Arctic ground squirrels". Animal Behaviour. 31 (1): 32–44. doi:10.1016/S0003-3472(83)80171-7. S2CID 53147479.
  18. ^ Buck, C.L.; Barnes, B.M. (2003). "Androgen in free-living arctic ground squirrels: seasonal changes and influence of staged male-male aggressive encounters". Hormones and Behavior. 43 (2): 318–326. doi:10.1016/s0018-506x(02)00050-8. PMID 12694642. S2CID 37114468.
  19. ^ Arkive, 2013. Arctic Ground Squirrel. [Internet]. [Cited November 7th 2013]. Available from: http://www.arkive.org/arctic-ground-squirrel/spermophilus-parryii/image-G78548.html Archived 2013-11-12 at the Wayback Machine
license
cc-by-sa-3.0
copyright
Wikipedia authors and editors
original
visit source
partner site
wikipedia EN

Arctic ground squirrel: Brief Summary

provided by wikipedia EN

The Arctic ground squirrel (Urocitellus parryii) (Inuktitut: ᓯᒃᓯᒃ, siksik) is a species of ground squirrel native to the Arctic and Subarctic of North America and Asia. People in Alaska, particularly around the Aleutians, refer to them as "parka" squirrels, most likely because their pelt is good for the ruff on parkas and for clothing.

license
cc-by-sa-3.0
copyright
Wikipedia authors and editors
original
visit source
partner site
wikipedia EN