Spermophilus dauricusDaurian ground squirrel

Geographic Range

Daurian ground squirrels currently occupy three countries: China, Mongolia, and the Russian Federation. Within China, they occupy northeastern China as far south as Zhengzhou. Daurian ground squirrels occupy eastern Mongolia, though the western extent of their range in Mongolia is unknown. In Russia, they live within Transbaikalia. However, there have been sightings of Daurian ground squirrels outside of their documented distribution, so the exact distribution is not clear (Cassola, 2016). (Cassola, et al., 2016)

Habitat

Daurian ground squirrels occupy open plains, the fringes of desert areas, and dry plain steppes (Cassola, 2016). They are found in subtropical and/or tropical dry grasslands (Cassola, 2016).

There is no available information on the elevational range at which Daurian ground squirrels live. European ground squirrels (Spermophilus citellus), another species in the same genus, is found from 0 to 2,500 m above sea level, showing the wide range of elevations Daurian ground squirrels could possibly occupy (Ramos-Lara, 2014). (Cassola, et al., 2016; Ramos-Lara, et al., 2014)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 2500 m
    0.00 to 8202.10 ft

Physical Description

Daurian ground squirrels have combined head and body lengths ranging from 165 to 268 mm, and tail lengths ranging from 40 to 75 mm. They weigh 154 to 264 g (Smith, 2008). Some of the defining characteristics of Daurian ground squirrels is their gray russet pelage, their light-yellow tail tips, and the blackish-brown preterminal band on their tails (Smith, 2008). (Smith, et al., 2008)

  • Range mass
    154 to 264 g
    5.43 to 9.30 oz
  • Range length
    165 to 268 mm
    6.50 to 10.55 in

Reproduction

There is no available information on the mating system of Daurian ground squirrels.

Daurian ground squirrels breed in spring (Sun, 2012). Exact months in spring are not available, though similar ground squirrels in the genus Spermophilus mate from March to April, such as Asia Minor ground squirrels (Spermophilus xanthoprymnus) (Gur, 2009). The gestation period for Daurian ground squirrels is about 28 days (Sun, 2012). They have 4 to 8 offspring in each brood, and offspring are weaned after about one month. (Sun, 2012).

There is no available information on birth masses of Daurian ground squirrels. For Asia Minor ground squirrels, a close taxonomic relative, birth masses of neonates ranges from 5.2 to 6.2 g (Gur, 2009).

There is no available information on the time to independence of Daurian ground squirrels. There is also no available information on the age at sexual or reproductive maturity of Daurian ground squirrels. In Asia Minor ground squirrels, females begin to produce one litter per year, beginning as yearlings, and males reach sexual maturity after approximately two years (Gur, 2009). (Gur and Gur, 2009; Sun, et al., 2012)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Breeding interval
    There is no available information on breeding interval of Daurian ground squirrels. Asia Minor ground squirrels (Spermophilus xanthoprymnus), a close relative of Daurian ground squirrels, have a mating season that lasts for three weeks (Gur, 2009).
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season for Daurian ground squirrels is in the Spring, but exact months are not known.
  • Range number of offspring
    4 to 8
  • Average number of offspring
    5.52
  • Average gestation period
    28 minutes
  • Average weaning age
    30 days

There is no available information on parental investment in Daurian ground squirrels. For a species in the same genus, Richardson's ground squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii), it is shown that young are most vulnerable to predation. Parents are more likely to produce alarm signals when their offspring are at this vulnerable stage (Wilson, 2006). (Wilson and Hare, 2006)

Lifespan/Longevity

There is no available information on the maximum lifespan of wild Daurian ground squirrels. A close relative, European ground squirrels (Spermophilus citellus), live for less than 7 years (Gorbunova, 2008).

There is no available information on average lifespan in wild Daurian ground squirrels. For yellow ground squirrels (Spermophilus fulvus), the expected lifespan is approximately 2 to 3 years (Vasilieva, 2018).

There is also no available information on lifespan in captivity for Daurian ground squirrels. (Gorbunova, et al., 2008; Vasilieva and Tchabovsky, 2018)

Behavior

There is no available information on average territory size of Daurian ground squirrels. However they are motile, meaning they are capable of moving around.

Daurian ground squirrels hibernate from late November to early March of the next year for an average of 93.95 days (Sun, 2012). They accumulate large amounts of body fat before hibernation (Sun, 2012). During a given hibernation period, there are 7.55 hibernation bouts (Sun, 2012). It takes about 1.36 days for them to wake up from hibernation (Sun, 2012). Daurian ground squirrels are diurnal and semi-fossorial; their burrows, where dense colonies live, are simple with two entrances (Smith, 2008). Their burrows are an average of 2 m in length, though some can be as long as 6 to 8 m (Smith, 2008). (Smith, et al., 2008; Sun, et al., 2012)

Home Range

Little is known about the average home range of Daurian ground squirrels.

Communication and Perception

Little is known about communication in Daurian ground squirrels. In general, species in the genus Spermophilus use alarm calls when predators are near (Owings, 1987). (Owings, et al., 1978)

Food Habits

Daurian ground squirrels eat carrots, some vegetables, some fruits, peanuts, beans, and various herbs.

There is no available information on the foraging behavior of Daurian ground squirrels. In Asia Minor ground squirrels (Spermophilus xanthoprymnus), less time is spent foraging in the early spring, while more time is spent moving (Gur, 2009). (Gur and Gur, 2009)

Predation

There is no available information on anti-predator adaptations in Daurian ground squirrels. However, similar species in the genus Spermophilus use alarm calls when predators are near (Owings 1978). (Owings, et al., 1978)

Ecosystem Roles

There is no available information on the ecosystem roles of Daurian ground squirrels. However, similar species of ground squirrels provide the service of creating specific habitats for other species through herbivory and ecosystem engineering (Davidson, 2012). It is also possible that their burrows contribute to soil aeration. (Davidson, et al., 2012)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Daurian ground squirrels and other rodent groups may be naturally infected by Echinococcus multilocularis, a tapeworm that infects various parts of the body, including the liver, brain, and lungs (Yang, 2009).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

As part of the genus Spermophilus, Daurian ground squirrels may benefit humans by consuming insects that could damage crops (Streubel, 1978). (Streubel and Fitzgerald, 1978)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

As part of the genus Spermophilus, Daurian ground squirrels may cause economic losses by damaging crops (Gur, 2009). (Gur and Gur, 2009)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

The IUCN lists Daurian ground squirrels as “Least Concern.” Their current population size is unknown, as is the current population trend (Cassola, 2016). According to the IUCN Red List, potential threats include habitat degradation due to an increase in livestock grazing as well as droughts (Cassola, 2016). (Cassola, et al., 2016)

Contributors

Elizabeth Revilla (author), University of Washington, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Washington, Galen Burrell (editor).

Glossary

Palearctic

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

World Map

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

colonial

used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

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.

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

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.

sexual

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

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical

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.

savanna

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.

References

Bai, G., S. Yang, X. Peng, L. Zhang. 2017. Captive breeding of Daurian ground squirrel after overwinter in the laboratory. Acta Theriologica Sinica, 37: 172-178.

Cassola, F., G. Amori, D. Lkhagvasuren, S. Shar. 2016. "Daurian Ground Squirre" (On-line). Accessed May 19, 2019 at https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/20482/115158889.

Davidson, A., J. Detling, J. Brown. 2012. Ecological role and conservation challenges of social, burrowing, herbivorous mammals in the world’s grasslands. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10: 477-486.

Elgar, M., P. Harvey. 1987. Basal metabolic rates in mammals: allometry, phylogeny, and ecology. Funcational Ecology, 1: 25-36.

Gorbunova, V., M. Bozzella, A. Seulanov. 2008. Rodents for comparative aging studies: from mice to beavers. Age, 30: 111-119.

Gur, M., H. Gur. 2009. Spermophilus xanthoprymnus (Rodentia: Sciuridae). Mammalian Species, 42: 183-197.

Luo, J., B. Fox. 1990. Life-table comparisons between two ground squirrels. Journal of Mammology, 71: 364-370.

Onodera, K., N. Maruyama, K. Shi, Z. Gao. 2000. The effect of livestock grazing on densities of Brandt’s voles and Daurian ground squirrels in Hulunber grassland, northern Inner Mongolia. Biosphere Conservation, 3: 27-33.

Owings, D., N. Maruyama, K. Shi, Z. Gao, M. Koganezawa. 1978. Alarm calls of California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi). Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie, 46: 58-70.

Ramos-Lara, N., K. Koprowski, B. Krystufek, I. Hoffmann. 2014. Spermophilus citellus (Rodentia: Sciuridae). Mammalian Species, 43: 58-70.

Smith, T., D. Lunde, D. Wilson, C. Wozencraf, Y. Xie. 2008. A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton, New Jersey, USA: Princeton University Press.

Streubel, D., J. Fitzgerald. 1978. Spermophilus tridecemlineatus. Mammalian Species, 103: 1-5.

Sun, X., Y. Gao, Q. Wang, S. Jiang, S. Guo, K. Liu. 2012. The artificial feeding, breeding and research on hibernation bouts of the Daurian ground squirrel (Spermophilus dauricus). Xhou lei xue bao, 32: 356-361.

Vasilieva, N., A. Tchabovsky. 2018. Reproductive Decisions in a “Fast-Living” Sciurid: A Case Study of the Yellow Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus fulvus). Biology Bulletin Reviews, 8: 12-22.

Wilson, D., J. Hare. 2006. The adaptive utility of Richardson’s ground squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii) short-range ultrasonic alarm signals. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 84: 1322-1330.

Xing, X., M. Yang, D. Wang. 2015. The expression of leptin, hypothalamic neuropeptides and UCP1 before, during and after fattening in the Daurian ground squirrel (Spermophilus dauricus). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, 184: 105-112.

Yang, Y., T. Liu, X. Bai, B. Boufana, P. Craig, M. Nakao, A. Ito, J. Zhang, D. Giraudoux. 2009. Natural infection of the ground squirrel (Sperophilus spp.) with Echinococcus granulosus in China. Public Library of Science, 3: 1-4.