Squirrels are small animals whose name is derived from the Greek language and translates to ‘shade tail’, one of the characteristics for which they are well known. They are among the smallest mammals and are usually found worldwide. The squirrel family includes ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, and flying squirrels but the most common and well-known ones are the tree squirrels.
Characteristics of Squirrel
Squirrels are generally small animals which range in size from 10 to 14 cm and 12-16 grams to 1.27 in total length and 8kg in weight. However they typically have slender bodies with very long bushy tails and large eyes, they also have soft and silky fur which ranges in thickness from species to species even the coat colour is also highly variable among different species.
In most of the species, the higher limbs are generally longer than the forelimbs and all of the species either have four or five toes on each foot. The tree squirrel, unlike the other mammals, descends a tree head first, they do so by rotating their ankles almost 180 degrees.
Squirrels can live in almost every habitat, from Tropical rainforests and deserts to higher polar regions. They are predominantly herbivores, but many of the species can also eat insects and other small vertebrae.
Almost all the species have an excellent sense of vision, and some of the species have a good sense of touch, their teeth are of typical rodent pattern with large incisors which continue to grow throughout their lives and cheek teeth, which are used for grinding.
The average lifespan of a squirrel ranges between 5 to 10 years, but some species can survive up to 10 to 20 years.
Types of Squirrels
To date more than 280 species of squirrel have been discovered. Some of the types of squirrels are mentioned below:
American Red Squirrel
Arizona grey squirrel
Calabrian black squirrel
Eastern grey squirrel
Eurasian red squirrel
Almost all species of squirrel are majorly diurnal, that is, they gather food during the day and rest at night. Some species of squirrels are comparatively less active during the winter season but however, they do not hibernate, like some arctic animals (polar bears)
Most of the species are herbivores and eat vegetables, plants, fruits, seeds and nuts. Some of the species also eat small insects and vertebrates. On an average, a squirrel eats around one pound of food per week.
After acquiring food they usually dig and bury their food to save it for later. They have excellent olfactory abilities which help them smell the food source even from a large distance, as large as 30 cm.
Another habit that almost all species have is that they are very possessive of their habitat, and they usually build traditional nests over which they are highly protective.
Most species of squirrels are herbivores, and their main diet consists of nuts, fruits, vegetables, plants and seeds. Some of the species are omnivores, and their diet consists of plants, vegetables, seeds, nuts, fruits and things like meat, eggs, small insects, caterpillars, some small vertebrates and even sometimes some small young snakes.
Squirrel Eating a Nut
Fun Facts About Squirrel
Some fun facts about Squirrel are:
Squirrels are actually rodents.
To date more than 280 species of squirrels have been identified and reported.
Squirrels usually eat nuts, and their next favourites are fruits and seeds.
Squirrels are born blind.
Flying squirrels can’t fly like birds.
They rather glide from tree to tree.
Chipmunks are small squirrels with characteristic stripes.
Chipmunks also have chubby cheek pouches for storing food.
State whether the given statements are true or not:
1. There are more than 280 species of squirrels discovered so far.
2. Squirrels' forelimbs are bigger than their hind limbs.
Ans: False. Their hind limbs are bigger than their forelimbs.
3. Squirrels are carnivores.
Ans: False, they are mostly herbivores, and some can be omnivores.
Learn by Doing
Complete the given statements by filling in the blanks:
1. Squirrel is a _______.
2. Squirrels belong to the ______ family.
3. Squirrels have a _____ and _____ tail.
Ans: thick, bushy
Squirrels are small to medium-sized rodent-like animals that are present all around the world, from tropical forests and deserts to higher polar regions. To date, more than 280 species of squirrels are known, and most of them are herbivores and feed on plants, vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruit, while some of the species are omnivores and also feed on meat, eggs, other small insects and their caterpillars and sometimes even young snakes.
They have a thick coat of fur, which can be of various different colours in different species, and they also have a thick bushy tail. Usually, their hind limbs are bigger than their forelimbs, which helps them climb.