Borneo tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis), also infamously known as the vampire squirrel, gained popularity when local folklore was spread across the world. It was shared that they are deer predators and eat their victims in the most gruesome ways. Supposedly, they hang on the low branches of a tree and kill a deer by attacking the exposed jugular veins of the deer. Apparently, deer is not the only one on its list; the killing of domestic chickens has also been attributed to this murderous rodent. Perhaps these rumors surfaced because of its enormous body size, which is unusual for a squirrel. Its fluffy tail almost doubles its size in appearance.
While these facts have been discredited, this animal is still a fascinating creature. It is found in the rare forest ecology of Indonesia and the Malaysian islands. Its morphological features have been a great interest in the world of science.
A tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis) is a rodent species known for its fluffy tail.
What class of animal does a tufted ground squirrel belong to?
Tufted ground squirrels belong to the class Mammalia of the Animalia Kingdom.
How many tufted ground squirrels are there in the world?
The exact number or count for this species seems to be unavailable. However, it is known that these squirrels occur infrequently and in small groups. It occurs only in select habitats, which might be one of the reasons for the low population. Moreover, due to certain threats, its population seems to be decreasing.
Where does a tufted ground squirrel live?
Verified tufted squirrel sightings have been reported in the Borneo Island, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam Islands, and Indonesia. This animal occurs only in a specific ecology; therefore, it occurs sparsely.
What is a tufted ground squirrel's habitat?
Suitable habitats include moist lowland forest and moist montane forest, provided these locations are below 3,608 ft (1,100 m). Other local sightings have been made in orchards, primary forests, and secondary forests. These animals have an affinity for Canarium trees, a special species found in tropical and subtropical zones. Not enough data have been collected on its preferred ecology and environment, which calls for scientific exploration in these areas.
Who do tufted ground squirrels live with?
This squirrel population is quite rare in nature and hard to study. Therefore it is hard to make predictions about the social life of this squirrel with a unique tail.
How long does a tufted ground squirrel live?
Longevity records of this squirrel are not reported in scientific researches. An estimate can be made if you compared it to common squirrel records. These species usually live for 5-10 years. Some live even beyond that, but it is unusual.
How do they reproduce?
Borneo squirrels are mammals, which means they are viviparous in nature. Females have to carry the young through a specific gestation period and take care of the kittens until they reach an independent age.
What is their conservation status?
As this species is tagged as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, it is a sign that it might be facing extinction in the near future. One of the main threats it is facing is the introduction of monoculture plantations and rampant logging practices. Even though the species does not have any inherent hunting value, it is affected due to unfortunate encounters with hunters' traps and snares.
The Malaysian Government for the Sarawak regions has laid out rules to protect the species. The same is not the case for other areas. Licenses can be obtained in Sabah by hunters. Research efforts are required to monitor its population trend and explore the role of the local communities in conservation efforts.
Tufted Ground Squirrel Fun Facts
What does a tufted ground squirrel look like?
The Bornean tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis) is a long rodent of about 13-14 in (33-35.6 cm) length and tail which adds 7.5-13.4 in (19-34 cm) to its body size. The specimen has an unusually shaped skull with whiskers and a small nose. Its fur is made of chestnut color with white underparts and black stripes running alongside its body. Its other name comes from its fluffy tail, which has been described as the fluffiest tail among all animal species in more than one instance. The tail is somewhat clubbed in shape, covered, and resembles its body color. It has long, grooved incisors which resemble the Sciurus genus, and it allegedly uses these to kill domestic chickens.
How cute are they?
Tufted squirrels are very cute to look at. They have a long, one of the fluffiest tails, which stands to be its unique feature.
How do they communicate?
No specific study records its communication patterns. Common squirrels such as Wyoming ground squirrels use visual, tactile acoustic, and chemical perception channels and are quite vocal.
How big is a tufted ground squirrel?
This animal is known for its abnormally long tail, which amounts its total body length to be 16.5-27.2 in (42-69 cm). Tufted squirrels, compared to this species, would be two times larger. A science article compared its total size to a large silver leaf monkey.
How fast can a tufted ground squirrel fly?
Tufted ground squirrels do not have the ability to fly. They are terrestrial animals and stay on the ground.
How much does a tufted ground squirrel weigh?
A tufted squirrel would weigh around 2.2-4.4 lb (1-2 kg). Some of its weight can be attributed to its fluffy tails.
What are the male and female names of the species?
Colloquially, male squirrels go by the name boars, whereas female squirrels are called sows.
What would you call a baby tufted ground squirrel?
A baby Borneo tufted ground squirrel can be called a kit or kitten.
What do they eat?
Being omnivorous by nature, its diet consists of nuts, seeds, small insects, and plant fruits. It has been videotaped foraging and eating, not on the ground level. As primary growth forests are full of thick plant vegetation, it has been difficult to record and study its movements.
Morphological analysis of its unique features, such as above-average size skull and extremely strong teeth, are considered to be signs of evolutionary adaptation to an environmental condition. Scientific analysis showed extreme adaptation to scarcity of food in its habitat. It then perhaps has to eat really tough nuts, which require such specific adaptations. Lastly, it is heavily dependent on select tree species, Canarium and Ficus.
Ground squirrels, their close relatives, are known to drink water from sources such as streams and rivers. The same can be assumed for this specific species.
Are they dangerous?
Ground squirrels, close relatives to tufted ground squirrels, can cause damage to farms by attacking vines, vegetables, roots, and at times, equipment, too. However, it cannot harm humans other than the fact that it can prove to be a host of various forms of diseases.
Tufted squirrel's infamous story of hunting deer has been discredited.
Would they make a good pet?
This mammal is a wild creature that has adapted itself to the wild. It cannot be tamed and should not be, either.
Did you know...
A group of scientists in Mount Palung National Park studied the vampire squirrel in its natural environment.
Has it yet occurred to you why does it have such a fluffy tail? This curious trait has been attributed to evolutionary and ecological adaption. This is based on the argument that maintenance of this tuft would require greater energy expenditure and thus requires solid reasoning. Science journals ascribe its role to evade predators like the red fox and hawks.
This boreal squirrel is a monotypic species, i.e., it is only the only member of its genus Rheithrosciurus.
What is the world's largest squirrel?
The black giant squirrel is the largest squirrel in the world. Its body size is 14-19 in (35.6-48.3 cm). However, its tail in itself adds another 19-23 in (48.3-58.4 cm), making it the largest squirrel. It can weigh about 2.3–2.8 lb (1.1–1.3 kg ). Several subspecies have been recorded for this species. It is found in many countries, including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Laos, and Malaysia.
Is tufted ground squirrel endemic?
Yes, the tufted ground squirrel is endemic to the Borneo islands. However, there is a possibility of discovering more of its natural habitats as scientific exploration has been limited. It has undertaken ecological specializations to the rainforest.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our Masai giraffe facts and Caracal facts pages.
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