|Black-tailed prairie dog at the Smithsonian National Zoo Park in Washington, D.C.|
Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America. The five species are: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison's, Utah, and Mexican prairie dogs. They are a type of ground squirrel, found in the United States, Canadian Prairies and Mexico. In Mexico, prairie dogs are found primarily in the northern states, which lie at the southern end of the Great Plains: northeastern Sonora, north and northeastern Chihuahua, northern Coahuila, northern Nuevo León, and northern Tamaulipas. In the United States, they range primarily to the west of the Mississippi River, though they have also been introduced in a few eastern locales. Despite the name, they are not actually canines.
Rodents are mammals of the order Rodentia, which are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. About 40% of all mammal species are rodents ; they are found in vast numbers on all continents except Antarctica. They are the most diversified mammalian order and live in a variety of terrestrial habitats, including human-made environments.
Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses (Poaceae); however, sedge (Cyperaceae) and rush (Juncaceae) families can also be found along with variable proportions of legumes, like clover, and other herbs. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica. Grasslands are found in most ecoregions of the Earth. For example, there are five terrestrial ecoregion classifications (subdivisions) of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome (ecosystem), which is one of eight terrestrial ecozones of the Earth's surface.
North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
Prairie dogs are named for their habitat and warning call, which sounds similar to a dog's bark. The name was in use at least as early as 1774.The 1804 journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition note that in September 1804, they "discovered a Village of an animal the French Call the Prairie Dog". Its genus, Cynomys, derives from the Greek for "dog mouse" (κυων kuōn, κυνος kunos – dog; μυς mus, μυός muos – mouse).
The Lewis and Clark Expedition from May 1804 to September 1806, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, was the first American expedition to cross the western portion of the United States. It began in Pittsburgh, Pa, made its way westward, and passed through the Continental Divide of the Americas to reach the Pacific coast. The Corps of Discovery was a selected group of US Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) was first described by Lewis and Clark in 1804.Lewis described it in more detail in 1806, calling it the "barking squirrel".
The white-tailed prairie dog is found in western Wyoming and western Colorado with small areas in eastern Utah and southern Montana. The largest populations are in Wyoming where they are known colloquially as "chiselers". This prairie dog species lives at an elevation between 5,000 and 10,000 feet, generally a higher elevation than other prairie dog species. Its predators include black-footed ferrets, badgers, and golden eagles.
The black-tailed prairie dog is a rodent of the family Sciuridae found in the Great Plains of North America from about the United States-Canada border to the United States-Mexico border. Unlike some other prairie dogs, these animals do not truly hibernate. The black-tailed prairie dog can be seen above ground in midwinter. A black-tailed prairie dog town in Texas was reported to cover 25,000 sq mi (64,000 km2) and included 400,000,000 individuals. Prior to habitat destruction, this species may have been the most abundant prairie dog in central North America. This species was one of two described by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the journals and diaries of their expedition.
The Mexican prairie dog is a diurnal burrowing rodent native to Mexico. Treatment as an agricultural pest has led to its status as an endangered species. They are closely related to squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. Cynomys mexicanus originated about 230,000 years ago from a peripherally isolated population of the more widespread Cynomys ludovicianus.
Marmots are large squirrels in the genus Marmota, with 15 species.
The Xerinae comprise a subfamily of squirrels, many of which are highly terrestrial. It includes the tribes Marmotini, Xerini, and Protoxerini.
Gunnison's prairie dog is one of five species of the prairie dog. This species belongs to the squirrel family of rodents, and are predominantly related to the North American and Eurasian ground squirrels. Gunnison's prairie dogs are primarily distributed in the Four Corners region of the United States.
Sciuromorpha ("squirrel-like") is a rodent clade that includes several different rodent families. It includes all members of the Sciuridae as well as the mountain beaver species.
Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae, a family that includes small or medium-size rodents. The squirrel family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs amongst other rodents. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, and were introduced by humans to Australia. The earliest known squirrels date from the Eocene period and are most closely related to the mountain beaver and to the dormouse among other living rodent families.
Chipmunks are small, striped rodents of the family Sciuridae. Chipmunks are found in North America, with the exception of the Siberian chipmunk which is found primarily in Asia.
On average, these stout-bodied rodents will grow to be between 30 and 40 cm (12 and 16 in) long, including the short tail, and weigh between 0.5 and 1.5 kilograms (1 and 3 lb). Sexual dimorphism in body mass in the prairie dog varies 105 to 136% between the sexes. Among the species, black-tailed prairie dogs tend to be the least sexually dimorphic, and white-tailed prairie dogs tend to be the most sexually dimorphic. Sexual dimorphism peaks during weaning, when the females lose weight and the males start eating more, and is at its lowest when the females are pregnant, which is also when the males are tired from breeding.
Prairie dogs are chiefly herbivorous, though they eat some insects. They feed primarily on grasses and small seeds. In the fall, they eat broadleaf forbs. In the winter, lactating and pregnant females supplement their diets with snow for extra water.They also will eat roots, seeds, fruit, and buds. Grasses of various species are eaten. Black-tailed prairie dogs in South Dakota eat western bluegrass, blue grama, buffalo grass, six weeks fescue, and tumblegrass, while Gunnison’s prairie dogs eat rabbit brush, tumbleweeds, dandelions, saltbush, and cacti in addition to buffalo grass and blue grama. White-tailed prairie dogs have been observed to kill ground squirrels, a competing herbivore.
Prairie dogs live mainly at altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 ft above sea level. The areas where they live can get as warm as 38 °C (100 °F) in the summer and as cold as −37 °C (−35 °F) in the winter. As prairie dogs live in areas prone to environmental threats, including hailstorms, blizzards, and floods, as well as drought and prairie fires, burrows provide important protection. Burrows help prairie dogs control their body temperature (Thermoregulation) as they are 5–10 °C during the winter and 15–25 °C in the summer. Prairie dog tunnel systems channel rainwater into the water table which prevents runoff and erosion, and can also change the composition of the soil in a region by reversing soil compaction that can result from cattle grazing.
Prairie dog burrows are 5–10 m (16–33 ft) long and 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft) below the ground. The entrance holes are generally 10–30 cm (3.9–11.8 in) in diameter. Prairie dog burrows can have up to six entrances. Sometimes the entrances are simply flat holes in the ground, while at other times they are surrounded by mounds of soil either left as piles or hard packed. Some mounds, known as dome craters, can be as high as 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in) high. Other mounds, known as rim craters, can be as high as 1 m. Dome craters and rim craters serve as observation posts used by the animals to watch for predators. They also protect the burrows from flooding. The holes also possibly provide ventilation as the air enters through the dome crater and leaves through the rim crater, causing a breeze though the burrow. Prairie dog burrows contain chambers to provide certain functions. They have nursery chambers for their young, chambers for night, and chambers for the winter. They also contain air chambers that may function to protect the burrow from flooding and a listening post for predators. When hiding from predators, prairie dogs use less-deep chambers that are usually a meter below the surface. Nursery chambers tend to be deeper, being two to three meters below the surface. .
Highly social, prairie dogs live in large colonies or "towns" and collections of prairie dog families that can span hundreds of acres. The prairie dog family groups are the most basic units of its society.Members of a family group inhabit the same territory. Family groups of black-tailed and Mexican prairie dogs are called "coteries", while "clans" are used to describe family groups of white-tailed, Gunnison’s, and Utah prairie dogs. Although these two family groups are similar, coteries tend to be more closely knit than clans. Members of a family group interact through oral contact or "kissing" and grooming one another. They do not perform these behaviors with prairie dogs from other family groups.
A prairie dog town may contain 15–26 family groups.There may also be subgroups within a town, called "wards", which are separated by a physical barrier. Family groups exist within these wards. Most prairie dog family groups are made up of one adult breeding male, two to three adult females and one to two male offspring and one to two female offspring. Females remain in their natal groups for life and are thus the source of stability in the groups. Males leave their natal groups when they mature to find another family group to defend and breed in. Some family groups contain more breeding females than one male can control, so have more than one breeding adult male in them. Among these multiple-male groups, some may contain males that have friendly relationships, but the majority contain males that have largely antagonistic relationships. In the former, the males tend to be related, while in the latter, they tend not to be related. Two to three groups of females may be controlled by one male. However, among these female groups, there are no friendly relations.
The average prairie dog territory takes up 0.05–1.01 hectares. Territories have well-established borders that coincide with physical barriers such as rocks and trees.The resident male of a territory defends it and antagonistic behavior will occur between two males of different families to defend their territories. These interactions may happen 20 times per day and last five minutes. When two prairie dogs encounter each other at the edges of their territories, they will start staring, make bluff charges, flare their tails, chatter their teeth, and sniff each other's perianal scent glands. When fighting, prairie dogs will bite, kick and ram each other. If their competitor is around their size or smaller, the females will participate in fighting. Otherwise, if a competitor is sighted, the females signal for the resident male.
Prairie dog copulation occurs in the burrows, and this reduces the risk of interruption by a competing male. They are also at less risk of predation. Behaviors that signal that a female is in estrus include underground consorting, self-licking of genitals, dust-bathing, and late entrances into the burrow at night.The licking of genitals may protect against sexually transmitted diseases and genital infections, while dust-bathing may protect against fleas and other parasites. Prairie dogs also have a mating call which consists of a set of 2 to 25 barks with a 3- to 15-second pause between each one. Females may try to increase their reproduction success by mating with males outside their family groups. When copulation is over, the male is no longer interested in the female sexually, but will prevent other males from mating with her by inserting copulatory plugs. .
For black-tailed prairie dogs, the resident male of the family group fathers all the offspring.Multiple paternity in litters seems to be more common in Utah and Gunnison’s prairie dogs. Mother prairie dogs do most of the care for the young. In addition to nursing the young, the mother also defends the nursery chamber and collects grass for the nest. Males play their part by defending the territories and maintaining the burrows. The young spend their first six weeks below the ground being nursed. They are then weaned and begin to surface from the burrow. By five months, they are fully grown. The subject of cooperative breeding in prairie dogs has been debated among biologists. Some argue prairie dogs will defend and feed young that are not theirs, and it seems young will sleep in a nursery chamber with other mothers; since most nursing occurs at night, this may be a case of communal nursing. In the case of the latter, others suggest communal nursing occurs only when mothers mistake another female's young for their own. Infanticide is known to occur in prairie dogs. Males which take over a family group will kill the offspring of the previous male. This causes the mother to go into estrus sooner. However, most infanticide is done by close relatives. Lactating females will kill the offspring of a related female both to decrease competition for the female’s offspring and for increased foraging area due to a decrease in territorial defense by the victimized mother. Supporters of the theory that prairie dogs are communal breeders state that another reason for this type of infanticide is so that the female can get a possible helper. With their own offspring gone, the victimized mother may help raise the young of other females.
The prairie dog is well adapted to predators. Using its dichromatic color vision, it can detect predators from a great distance; it then alerts other prairie dogs of the danger with a special, high-pitched call. Constantine Slobodchikoff and others assert that prairie dogs use a sophisticated system of vocal communication to describe specific predators.According to them, prairie dog calls contain specific information as to what the predator is, how big it is and how fast it is approaching. These have been described as a form of grammar. According to Slobodchikoff, these calls, with their individuality in response to a specific predator, imply that prairie dogs have highly developed cognitive abilities. He also writes that prairie dogs have calls for things that are not predators to them. This is cited as evidence that the animals have a very descriptive language and have calls for any potential threat.
Alarm response behavior varies according to the type of predator announced. If the alarm indicates a hawk diving toward the colony, all the prairie dogs in its flight path dive into their holes, while those outside the flight path stand and watch. If the alarm is for a human, all members of the colony immediately rush inside the burrows. For coyotes, the prairie dogs move to the entrance of a burrow and stand outside the entrance, observing the coyote, while those prairie dogs that were inside the burrows will come out to stand and watch as well. For domestic dogs, the response is to observe, standing in place where they were when the alarm was sounded, again with the underground prairie dogs emerging to watch.
There is debate over whether the alarm calling of prairie dogs is selfish or altruistic. It is possible that prairie dogs alert others to the presence of a predator so they can protect themselves. However, it is also possible that the calls are meant to cause confusion and panic in the groups and cause the others to be more conspicuous to the predator than the caller. Studies of black-tailed prairie dogs suggest that alarm-calling is a form of kin selection, as a prairie dog’s call alerts both offspring and nondescended kin, such as cousins, nephews and nieces.Prairie dogs with kin close by called more often than those that did not have kin nearby. In addition, the caller may be trying to make itself more noticeable to the predator. Predators, though, seem to have difficulty determining which prairie dog is making the call due to its "ventriloquistic" nature.
Perhaps the most striking of prairie dog communications is the territorial call or "jump-yip" display of the black-tailed prairie dog.A black-tailed prairie dog will stretch the length of its body vertically and throw its forefeet into the air while making a call. A jump-yip from one prairie dog causes others nearby to do the same.
Ecologists consider this rodent to be a keystone species. They are an important prey species, being the primary diet in prairie species such as the black-footed ferret, swift fox, golden eagle, red tailed hawk, American badger, coyote and ferruginous hawk. Other species, such as the golden-mantled ground squirrel, mountain plover, and the burrowing owl, also rely on prairie dog burrows for nesting areas. Even grazing species, such as plains bison, pronghorn, and mule deer have shown a proclivity for grazing on the same land used by prairie dogs.
Nevertheless, prairie dogs are often identified as pests and exterminated from agricultural properties because they are capable of damaging crops, as they clear the immediate area around their burrows of most vegetation.
As a result, prairie dog habitat has been affected by direct removal by farmers, as well as the more obvious encroachment of urban development, which has greatly reduced their populations. The removal of prairie dogs "causes undesirable spread of brush", the costs of which to livestock range may outweigh the benefits of removal.Black-tailed prairie dogs comprise the largest remaining community. In spite of human encroachment, prairie dogs have adapted, continuing to dig burrows in open areas of western cities.
One common concern which led to the widespread extermination of prairie dog colonies was that their digging activities could injure horses As of July 2016 [update] the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to distribute an oral vaccine it had developed by unmanned aircraft or drones.by fracturing their limbs. However, according to writer Fred Durso, Jr., of E Magazine, "after years of asking ranchers this question, we have found not one example." Another concern is their susceptibility to bubonic plague.
Until 2003, primarily black-tailed prairie dogs were collected from the wild for the exotic pet trade in Canada, the United States, Japan, and Europe. They were removed from their underground burrows each spring, as young pups, with a large vacuum device.They can be difficult to breed in captivity, but breed well in zoos. Removing them from the wild was a far more common method of supplying the market demand.
They can be difficult pets to care for, requiring regular attention and a very specific diet of grasses and hay. Each year, they go into a period called rut that can last for several months, in which their personalities can drastically change, often becoming defensive or even aggressive. Despite their needs, prairie dogs are very social animals and come to seem as though they treat humans as members of their colony, answering barks and chirps, and even coming when called by name.[ citation needed ]
In mid-2003, due to cross-contamination at a Madison, Wisconsin-area pet swap from an unquarantined Gambian pouched rat imported from Ghana, several prairie dogs in captivity acquired monkeypox, and subsequently a few humans were also infected. This led the CDC and FDA to issue a joint order banning the sale, trade, and transport within the United States of prairie dogs (with a few exceptions).The disease was never introduced to any wild populations. The European Union also banned importation of prairie dogs in response.
All Cynomys species are classed as a "prohibited new organism" under New Zealand's Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, preventing it from being imported into the country.
Prairie dogs are also very susceptible to bubonic plague, and many wild colonies have been wiped out by it.Also, in 2002, a large group of prairie dogs in captivity in Texas were found to have contracted tularemia. The prairie dog ban is frequently cited by the CDC as a successful response to the threat of zoonosis.
Prairie dogs that were in captivity at the time of the ban in 2003 were allowed to be kept under a grandfather clause, but were not to be bought, traded, or sold, and transport was permitted only to and from a veterinarian under quarantine procedures.
On 8 September 2008, the FDA and CDC rescinded the ban, making it once again legal to capture, sell, and transport prairie dogs.Although the federal ban has been lifted, several states still have in place their own ban on prairie dogs.
The European Union has not lifted its ban on imports from the U.S. of animals captured in the wild. Major European Prairie Dog Associations, such as the Italian Associazione Italiana Cani della Prateria (AICDP), remain against import from the United States, due to the high death rate of wild captures.Several zoos in Europe have stable prairie dog colonies that generate enough surplus pups to saturate the EU internal demand, and several associations help owners to give adoption to captive-born animals.
Prairie dogs in captivity may live up to ten years.
In companies that use large numbers of cubicles in a common space, employees sometimes use the term "prairie dogging" to refer to the action of several people simultaneously looking over the walls of their cubicles in response to a noise or other distraction. This action is thought to resemble the startled response of a group of prairie dogs.
The black-footed ferret , also known as the American polecat or prairie dog hunter, is a species of mustelid native to central North America. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN, because of its very small and restricted populations. First discovered by Audubon and Bachman in 1851, the species declined throughout the 20th century, primarily as a result of decreases in prairie dog populations and sylvatic plague. It was declared extinct in 1979 until Lucille Hogg's dog brought a dead black-footed ferret to her door in Meeteetse, Wyoming in 1981. That remnant population of a few dozen ferrets lasted there until the animals were considered extinct in the wild in 1987. However, a captive breeding program launched by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service resulted in its reintroduction into eight western states, Canada and Mexico from 1991 to 2009. There are now over 1,000 mature, wild-born individuals in the wild across 18 populations, with five self-sustaining populations in South Dakota (two), Arizona, Wyoming and Saskatchewan. It was first listed as "Endangered" in 1982, then listed as "Extinct in the Wild" in 1996 before being downgraded back to "Endangered" in 2008.
The squirrel glider is a nocturnal gliding possum. The squirrel glider is one of the wrist-winged gliders of the genus Petaurus.
Antelope squirrels or antelope ground squirrels of the genus Ammospermophilus are sciurids found in the desert and dry scrub areas of south-western United States and northern Mexico. They are a type of ground squirrel and are able to resist hyperthermia and can survive body temperatures over 40 °C (104 °F).
The ground squirrels are members of the squirrel family of rodents (Sciuridae) which generally live on or in the ground, rather than trees. The term is most often used for the medium-sized ground squirrels, as the larger ones are more commonly known as marmots or prairie dogs, while the smaller and less bushy-tailed ground squirrels tend to be known as chipmunks. Together, they make up the "marmot tribe" of squirrels, Marmotini, and the large and mainly ground squirrel subfamily Xerinae, and containing six living genera. Well-known members of this largely Holarctic group are the marmots (Marmota), including the American groundhog, the chipmunks, the susliks (Spermophilus), and the prairie dogs (Cynomys). They are highly variable in size and habitus, but most are remarkably able to rise up on their hind legs and stand fully erect comfortably for prolonged periods. They also tend to be far more gregarious than other squirrels, and many live in colonies with complex social structures. Most Marmotini are rather short-tailed and large squirrels, and the alpine marmot is the largest living member of the Sciuridae, at 53–73 cm in length and weighing 5–8 kg.
Franklin's ground squirrel is a species of squirrel native to North America, and the only member of the genus Poliocitellus. Due to the destruction of prairie, the populations of Franklin's ground squirrel have dwindled, approaching levels of concern. However, the species is prolific and locally abundant.
Animal communication is the transfer of information from one or a group of animals to one or more other animals that affects the current or future behavior of the receivers. Information may be sent intentionally, as in a courtship display, or unintentionally, as in the transfer of scent from predator to prey. Information may be transferred to an "audience" of several receivers. Animal communication is a rapidly growing area of study in disciplines including animal behavior, sociology, neurology and animal cognition. Many aspects of animal behavior, such as symbolic name use, emotional expression, learning and sexual behavior, are being understood in new ways.
The Cape fox, also called the asse, cama fox or the silver-backed fox, is a small fox, native to southern Africa.
Richardson's ground squirrel, also known as the Dakrat, or Flickertail, is a North American ground squirrel in the genus Urocitellus. Like a number of other ground squirrels, they are sometimes called gophers, though this name belongs more strictly to the pocket gophers of family Geomyidae.
The yellow-bellied marmot, also known as the rock chuck, is a large, stout-bodied ground squirrel in the marmot genus. It is one of fourteen species of marmots, and is native to mountainous regions of southwestern Canada and western United States, including the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and Mount Rainier in the state of Washington, typically living above 6,500 feet (2,000 m). The fur is mainly brown, with a dark bushy tail, yellow chest and white patch between the eyes, and they weigh up to approximately 5 kg (11 lb). They live in burrows in colonies of up to twenty individuals with a single dominant male. They are diurnal and feed on plant material, insects, and bird eggs. They hibernate for approximately eight months starting in September and lasting through the winter.
The Utah prairie dog is the smallest species of prairie dog, a member of the squirrel family of rodents native to the south central steppes of the US state of Utah.
Belding's ground squirrel, also called pot gut, sage rat or picket-pin, is a squirrel that lives on mountains in the western United States. In California, it often is found at 6,500 to 11,800 feet (2,000–3,600 m) in meadows between Lake Tahoe and Kings Canyon. This species is not of conservation concern, and its range includes some protected areas.
The Cape ground squirrel is found in most of the drier parts of southern Africa from South Africa, through to Botswana, and into Namibia, including Etosha National Park.
The round-tailed ground squirrel, known as "Ardillón cola redonda" in Spanish, live in the desert of the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. They are called "ground squirrels" because they burrow in loose soil, often under mesquite trees and creosote bushes.
The gray marmot, grey marmot, or Altai marmot is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It is one of the larger marmots in the genus Marmota. It occurs in mountainous grasslands and shrub lands of central Asia, and is one of the 9 Palearctic (Eurasia) species. It is found in Xinjiang Province in China, southeastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and in the Altai and Tien Shan Mountains in southeastern Siberia in Russia. In the Mongolian Altai, its range overlaps with that of the Tarbagan marmot. Gray marmots form social groups, live in burrows, and hibernate.
Constantine "Con" Slobodchikoff is an animal behaviorist and conservation biologist. He is a professor at Northern Arizona University where he studies referential communication, using prairie dogs as a model species. Much of his recent research has shown a complex communicative ability of the Gunnison prairie dog alarm calls. In early 2008 he formed the Animal language Institute to create a place where people can find and share research in animal communication, including language.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to |
(Prairie dogs) .