- n Spermophilus typical ground squirrels
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n spermophilus A genus of ground-squirrels, giving name to the Spermophilinæ. The type is S. citillus of Europe, the suslik, but the genus is especially well represented in North America, where more than a dozen distinct species occur, some of which run into several varieties. They are divided into 3 subgenera. Otospermophilus, in which the ears are high and pointed, the tail is full and broad, with the hairs from two thirds to three quarters of the length of the head and body, and the whole aspect is strongly squirrel like. To this section belongs S. grammurus, with its varieties beecheyi and douglassi; these are the common ground-squirrels of California, Oregon, and Washington, and east to the Rocky Mountains. S. annulatus of Mexico probably also belongs here. Colobotis, in which the ears are short and marginiform, the tail is short, from one third to one half the length of the body, and the form is stout. The Old World species belong here, and several of those of North America, as Parry's spermophile, S. empetra (or parryi), which inhabits British America and Alaska, and runs into several varieties, as kodiacensis and erythroglutæus. In the United States the best-known species of this section is Richardson's spermophile, S. richardsoni, very generally distributed, in one or another of its varieties, from the plains of the Saskatchewan to those of the Laramie. It is a tawny animal, resembling a prairie-dog in appearance and habits. Here also belong S. mollis, S. spilosoma, and S. obsoletus. inhabiting western parts of the United States. Ictidomys, wihch includes several slender-bodied species, almost like weasels in this respect (whence the name), with the ears generally small or rudimentary, as in Colobotis, the skull long and narrow, the tail variable, and the first upper premolar generally small. The most squirrel-like of these is Franklin's spermophile, S. franklini, inhabiting Illinois and Missouri and northward to 64°. It not distantly resembles a gray squirrel, the tail being bushy, two thirds as long as the head and body. The commonest species is S. tridecemlineatus, the thirteen-lined spermophile, or federation squirrel, so called by Dr. S. L. Mitchill (in 1821) from the original thirteen States of the United States, it having a number (six or eight) of longitudinal stripes, with five or seven rows of spots between them, likened by that patriot to the “stars and stripes.” It inhabits the prairies of the United States at large, and extends northward into British America. Other species of this section are S. mexicanus of Texas and Mexico, and S. tereticaudus of Arizona and California. Three of the above animals, S. grammurus, S. franklini, and S. tridecemlineatus, are numerous enough in cultivated districts to be troublesome, and all of them are called gophers, a name shared by the different animals of the family Geomyidæ. They are all terrestrial (S. franklini somewhat arboreal), and live in burrows underground, much like prairie-dogs, though none of them dig so extensively. In many parts of the Dakotas and Montana the ground is honeycombed with the burrows of S. richardsoni. They feed on herbage and seeds, and are also to some extent carnivorous. They are prolific, like most rodents, and bring forth their young in burrows. Those of northern regions hibernate like marmots. Their flesh is eatable. The name of the genus is also written Spermophila and Spermatophilus, but both of these forms are rare. See also cut under suslik.
- n spermophilus In entomology, a genus of coleopterous insects.