Paraxerus flavovittisstriped bush squirrel

Geographic Range

Paraxerus flavovittis, the striped bush squirrel, is found throughout Southern Kenya, the United Republic of Tanzania, Malawi, and Northern Mozambique. (Grubb, 2006; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)


Striped bush squirrels are terrestrial and live in a variety of habitats, from moist savannahs to forests. They can be found on cultivated lands, preferring sugar plum tree groves. Populations are most numerous in old-growth hardwood forests. (Allen and Loveridge, 1942; Grubb, 2006; Kingdon, 1984; Kingdon, 1997)

Physical Description

Striped bush squirrels are small to medium sized squirrels. Head and body length measurement averages 175 mm and tail length also averages 175 mm. They can weight from 120 g to 200 g. Striped bush squirrels undergo periodic color changes. The back can be dark grey or olive-brown, which can be replaced by brightly ochraceous tipped hairs. The dorsal surface can also take on a fulvous or bright gold hue. Paraxerus flavovittis has a single dorsal lateral stripe on each side. This stripe can be ivory, white, or yellowish and there is a dark line on either side of each stripe. The top of the head eventually can become ochraceous. When the dorsal surface of the muzzle is grizzled ochraceous, the crown is often dark grey as well as the neck. Facial lines are alternatively white and dark brown. The underside of is white. The dorsal foot surfaces can be dull ochraceous. The toes are heavily clawed.

It is thought that color changes in the fur might be connected with age. Color changes do not seem to be merely seasonal, but may depend on the physiological condition of the squirrel. (Hinton, 1920; Kingdon, 1997; Thomas, 1919)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    120 to 200 g
    4.23 to 7.05 oz
  • Average length
    175 mm
    6.89 in


There is very little information on the reproduction and mating systems in striped bush squirrels. However, in a related species, Smith's bush squirrels (Paraxerus cepapi), there is more information.

Male P. cepapi increase the frequency of mating calls when approaching mating season. The male mating call often begins in April and ends by January. The cycle of the male mating call is probably controlled by androgen. In captivity, a male P. cepapi mating call is often followed by chasing the female and attempting to mount her. It is possible that the presence of a female will stimulate the male to emit his mating call. This call by the male also possibly brings the female into estrus. Captive males have been recorded emitting the mating call sporadically, and will murmur continuously in the presence of a female who has given her mating call.

The high pitched mating call of females, emitted while in estrus, is given in short pulses. This call may be followed by grunting or growling softly. A female P. cepapi emits this call while the male mounts her. (Viljoen, 1983)

Very young striped bush squirrels have been collected in the months of March and April. In June, some half-grown young were collected. It has been suggested that the birthing season may occur around these months, and possibly a second one in September. A striped bush squirrel nest was recorded as being made from grass and coconut fibers and was located in a hollow tree.

Again, not much information is available on reproduction in P. flavovittis, but there is available information on a close relative, P. cepapi.

Captive P. cepapi have a gestation period of 56 to 58 days. At birth, P. cepapi young are well developed. Weaning occurs between 4 and 6 weeks after birth. A new set of pups can be born as early as 62 days after birth of the last litter; P. cepapi generally has two pups per litter. (Allen and Loveridge, 1942; Butler, et al., 2004; Emmons, 1979)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals are not known for striped bush squirrels.
  • Breeding season
    Young are born in March and April, and perhaps in September, but the gestation period and breeding season are unknown.

A small amount of information on P. flavovittis parental care shows that young will emit a squeak at ear piercing level when in danger or fearful. The mother will respond to this call, but one mother was observed fleeing from the rescue when she realized she was under observation.

Due to a lack of information on reproduction in P. flavovittis, some information on P. cepapi may be helpful.

A mother P. cepapi will remain in the nest almost continuously for the first days after parturition. Males are often in the nest as well. Paraxerus cepapi parents often approach their young and groom them forcefully.

In order to move her young, a female P. cepapi will carry the young by gripping the ventral body surface of its hindleg in her mouth. The young holds on with arms, legs and tail. It has been indicated that a mother will retrieve her young up to 4 weeks of age. After this, the young will resist retrieval.

Neither the adult male nor the adult female will provide the young with solid food in the nest. For the first six months after birth, a young P. cepapi follows its parents around while eating.

Young P. cepapi probably learn nest building skills by observing the mother. (Allen and Loveridge, 1942; Viljoen, 1977)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


There is no available information on the lifespan/longevity of Paraxerus flavovittis.


Striped bush squirrels are diurnal mammals. Not much is known about their social system, but females and males associate with their young. There are no recordings of large associations of P. flavovittis. Striped bush squirrels nest in hardwood tree hollows and can be seen basking near their nest holes in the early morning. If they realize they have attracted attention, they will flee. It has been suggested that females are more wary than males. (Allen and Loveridge, 1942; Kingdon, 1984; Viljoen, 1977)

Home Range

There is a lack of available information on the home range of P. flavovittis. (Allen and Loveridge, 1942; Kingdon, 1984)

Communication and Perception

There is not much information on communication in striped bush squirrels except that young will emit a piercing squeak when threatened or fearful, to which the mother will respond.

Research on communication in a different species in the same genus, Paraxerus cepapi, yields clues about the communication of striped bush squirrels. Tail flicking and ear wagging have been recorded in P. cepapi. Being a species that lives in the savannah, however, tail flicking does not occur often outside of an alarm context. The savannah is one habitat for P. flavovittis, so it is possible that minimal tail flicking occurs within this species as well, because of the risk of attracting predators. A quick head bob is also seen in P. cepapi. It is a subtle movement and is done the first moments after P. cepapi feels threatened. Quicker head bobs are performed before attempts at long jumps.

If a dominant P. cepapi narrows its eyes at a submissive P. cepapi, the submissive squirrel will run away and is then often chased by the dominant one.

In P. cepapi olfactory signals include mouthwiping and anal-dragging. Mouthwiping is done after eating or during grooming. Paraxerus cepapi has also been observed mouthwiping in a modified form resembling flehmen. Face-tail-face grooming in P. cepapi distributes scent all over the body.

Paraxerus cepapi murmurs, which is thought to be a form of communication used to contact another squirrel and can be aggressive or friendly. Male and female P. cepapi give mating calls to attract each other. When P. cepapi individuals feel threatened, they will emit a warning growl or hiss. Teeth grinding may also be used as a warning. Ticking sounds emited by young P. cepapi are probably used to show that they are seeking contact with the mother. (Allen and Loveridge, 1942; Viljoen, 1983)

Food Habits

Striped bush squirrels eat seeds, fruits, roots, leaves, and buds. (Kingdon, 1997)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


There is very little information regarding predation on P. flavovittis. Likely predators that live within the range of P. flavovittis and prey on rodents are African wild cats (Felis silvestris libyca) and feral domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Snakes and birds of prey are also likely predators. (Butler, et al., 2004)

Ecosystem Roles

Available information on the ecosystem roles of striped bush squirrels is lacking. It seems likely, however, that they disperse seeds of the tree species they feed on and affect the abundance of the specific plants on which they feed.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Paraxerus flavovittis on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Paraxerus flavovittis on humans.

Conservation Status

Paraxerus flavovittis is classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN list. It is not listed on either the CITES appendices or the United States Federal list. ("U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Working Together", 2007; "UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species", 2007; Grubb, 2006)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Nicole Mason (author), Michigan State University, Barbara Lundrigan (editor, instructor), Michigan State University.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


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.

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

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

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.


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


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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).


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.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


2007. "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Working Together" (On-line). Accessed March 16, 2007 at

2007. "UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species" (On-line). Accessed March 16, 2007 at

Allen, G., A. Loveridge. 1942. Scientific Results of a Fourth Expedition to Forested Areas in East and Central Africa. I. Mammals. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, in Cambridge, 89: 183.

Butler, J., J. Toit, J. Bingham. 2004. Free-ranging domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) as predators and prey in rural Zimbabwe: threats of competition and disease to large wild carnivores. Biological Conservation, 115: 369-378.

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

Grubb, P. 2006. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed March 16, 2007 at

Hinton, M. 1920. The Subspecies of Paraxerus flavivittis , Peters. The Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Ser 9 / Vol V: 308-312.

Kingdon, J. 1984. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa, Volume IIB. London and New York: Academic Press.

Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African mammals. New York: Academic Press.

Thomas, O. 1919. On a small Collection of Mammals from Lumbo, Mozambique. The Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Ser 9 / Vol. IV: 31-33.

Viljoen, S. 1983. Communicatory behaviour of southern African tree squirrels, Paraxerus palliatus ornatus, P.p. tongensis, P. c. cepapi and Funisciurus congicus. Mammalia, 47: 441-461.

Viljoen, S. 1977. Behaviour of the bush squirrel, Paraxerus cepapi cepapi (A. Smith, 1836). Mammalia, 41: 119-165.

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World. Washington, DC, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.