Perote ground squirrel
Xerospermophilus perotensis

The Perote ground squirrel (Xerospermosphilus perotensis ) is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to Mexico and is currently at risk of extinction. Perote ground squirrels live within the same area as rock squirrels (Otospermophilus variegatus ) but they use different microhabitats. In one case it also shares its habitat with the Mexican ground squirrel (Ictidomys mexicanus ). Perote ground squirrels have traits similar to those of spotted ground squirrels (X. spilosoma pallescens ) found in the northern Mexican Plateau; however they are larger, have shorter tails and yellow backs. Its skull is relatively narrow with a large braincase and they have heavy, thick teeth. Perote ground squirrels have two annual cycles, an active phase (March–November) and a hibernation phase (December–February). Some overlap may occur in March and November however.

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X. perotensis was first described as a species in 1893. Much research is being done recently, and many scientists think it should be classified as a subspecies of X. spilosoma. "In either case, and regardless of the position one might adopt around species concepts, it is evident that X. perotensis constitutes an independent and isolated biological entity that has evolved under restricted geographical and ecological contexts as a consequence of recent Pleistocene events".

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Biogeographical realms

The habitat range of the Perote ground squirrel is in the Oriental Basin (5250 km2) between Puebla and Veracruz. The basin is surrounded by high mountains thought to have arisen from volcanic activity. This also accounts for the pockets of arid and semiarid land. The semiarid land in Perote is the most humid in the area with an average rainfall of 369.77 mm between June and September. The average temperature is 11.9 °C with highs of 14.73 °C and lows of 8.80 °C.

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Perote ground squirrels only live in alkaline grasslands, arid scrubs and hilly, rocky areas where they will dig their burrows. However, due to agriculture, overgrazing, and the urbanizing of the area, the suitable habitat for the squirrel is down to 16 small localities. These areas are mostly narrow strips (20–50 m) separated by an average distance of 15.8 km.

This species is threatened by extensive habitat fragmentation and deforestation within its restricted range due to timber extraction and clearing of forest for agriculture. While the squirrel once occupied a range of approximately 5250 square kilometers, it now only occupies an area totaling 2457 square kilometers. The Oriental Basin is surrounded almost entirely by a belt of temperate mountain ranges, which prevent the squirrel from dispersing to new habitat. The Oriental Basin is made up of lava flows, isolated mountains, and volcanoes and so provides only localized habitable areas.

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Perote ground squirrel habitat map
Perote ground squirrel habitat map

Diet and Nutrition

X. perotenses is a generalist species in its diet. It is mostly found in croplands and open areas with low vegetation. In most studies, researchers bait traps with oats in order to catch individuals.


Population threats

Species can respond to environmental change in one of three possible ways: (a) migrating; that is, tracking their ecological niche throughout the geographic space. The Perote ground squirrel has such particular environmental needs that they do not have a place to migrate. (b) adapting in terms of evolutionary change and/or physiological acclimation; and (c) becoming locally extinct."

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Some studies have found that because the Perote ground squirrel is a seasonal species, it is more affected by climate change, increasing the risk of extinction. Seasonal species are more vulnerable because they are forced to do all their annual activities in a shorter amount of time. They do not migrate and have to adjust their activities, such as hibernation, with the current climate.

The squirrel also has predators such as the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata ) and domestic dogs, which have impacts on population.

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1. Perote ground squirrel Wikipedia article -
2. Perote ground squirrel on The IUCN Red List site -

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