Physical characteristics

Ground squirrels are diverse in size with the largest (Marmota) being more than 100 times the mass of the smallest (Tamias). All ground squirrels are generally short legged with stout bodies and a tail that is generally one third to one half the length of the body.

Fur is typically short and coloration varies among species and groups. Chipmunks have alternating dark and light stripes on both sides of their face and along their backs. The stripes vary in contrast among the species. All the Antelope squirrels and African squirrels, except for one from each group, have a single white stripe down either side of their bodies. Striping is not as common in the Spermophilus sp. except in golden mantled ground squirrels S. lateralis and S. saturatus, which is why they are often confused for chipmunks. However, they lack facial striping that distinguishes them from the chipmunks. One of the most striking patterns for a mammal

Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) basking in the sunshine. (Photo by John Shaw. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

belongs to the thirteen-lined ground squirrel (S. tridecemlin-eatus), which has 13 alternating dark and light stripes along the back and a row of spots that runs down each dark stripe.

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