Sciurus sp.

| 8 Comments

Photograph by Mike Elzinga.

Mixed 2B.jpg

Sciurus sp. – possibly a melanistic form of S. carolinensis, or Eastern gray squirrel, Kalamazoo, Michigan. The photographer says, “I was surmising this is a cross between the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) and the black or melanistic form of the eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). They mingle rather frequently under the bird feeders in my back yard. However, from the clearer close-up with the telephoto lens, I noticed that the ears of the mixed color squirrel are pretty much the same shape and size as those of the black squirrel [S. carolinensis]. The fox squirrels have thicker, stubbier ears.

“I’m sure the more mottled squirrels I saw earlier in the year are nearby, but they haven’t been in my yard in the last few months. I would like to get a close-up of these to compare ears.

“A possible alternative is that the black squirrels simply have these characteristics show up from time to time. I don’t see a lot of grey squirrels around here. I suspect the ears would distinguish them from the fox squirrels. Still another alternative is that adolescent black squirrels sometimes have these mottled coats that eventually change to all black.

“We could use some experts on squirrels here.

“Here is a link to a picture of a fox squirrel with some black features. The ears on this one look more like those of a fox squirrel.”

8 Comments

Definitely S. carolinensis, fox squirrels are larger with a chunkier build. Most likely a black morph with a mosaic mutation that makes some areas express only the reddish pheomelanin instead of the blackish eumelanin pigment. Odd spotting patterns are pretty common in this species, though most I have seen show white spots on either the grey or black morph.

genotypical said:

Definitely S. carolinensis, fox squirrels are larger with a chunkier build. Most likely a black morph with a mosaic mutation that makes some areas express only the reddish pheomelanin instead of the blackish eumelanin pigment. Odd spotting patterns are pretty common in this species, though most I have seen show white spots on either the grey or black morph.

Would this persist throughout the lifetime of the individual squirrel, or does it change with age; say with developing from adolescent into adult?

I was beginning to suspect this after I got a couple of close-ups of the squirrels that returned to my yard. There were a couple of others, however, that looked like fox squirrels with black ears.

Just a home dye job that went wrong.

My most vivid memory of the maneuverability of a squirrel comes from over 30 years ago when I was headed to the lab early one Sunday morning on the University of Michigan campus.

Just as I was crossing the Diag, I spotted a golden retriever that had stalked to within about 20 yards of a big fox squirrel foraging out in the open; and then it ambushed.

The dog overtook the squirrel very quickly. But just as it lunged to grab the squirrel, the squirrel doubled back between the dog’s front legs, leaving the dog skidding on its chin with its rump and hind legs in the air and its two front legs dragging behind.

It was a scene that could have been right out of a Bugs Bunny/Road Runner cartoon.

Old Ari said:

Just a home dye job that went wrong.

“Keep messing with your hair long enough and you will wreck it.”

Mike–it should persist, that color change is not along the normal molting line. Or maybe you do have a neighbor with black hair dye and a warped sense of humor!

genotypical said:

Mike–it should persist, that color change is not along the normal molting line. Or maybe you do have a neighbor with black hair dye and a warped sense of humor!

So if they are stuck with it, I wonder what kinds of hairdos are considered cool in Squirrel World.

Can we PLEASE get rid of these damned SPAMMERS?!

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on October 25, 2010 12:00 PM.

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