Generic Revision in the Holarctic Ground Squirrel Genus Spermophilus


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Journal of Mammalogy

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The substantial body of research on Holarctic ground squirrels amassed over the past century documents considerable variability in morphological, cytogenetic, ecological, and behavioral attributes in the genus SpermophilusF. Cuvier, 1825. Recent molecular phylogenetic studies suggest that the traditionally recognized genera Marmota Blumenbach, 1779 (marmots), Cynomys Rafinesque, 1817 (prairie dogs), and Ammospermo-philusMerriam, 1892 (antelope ground squirrels) render Spermophilus paraphyletic, potentially suggesting that multiple generic-level lineages should be credited within Spermophilus. Herein, we recognize 8 genera formerly subsumed in Spermophilus, each of which is morphologically diagnosable, craniometrically distinctive, and recovered as a monophyletic clade in phylogenetic analyses utilizing the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b. Generic-level names are available for each of these ground squirrel assemblages, most of which are exclusively or predominantly North American in distribution (NotocitellusA. H. Howell, 1938; OtospermophilusBrandt, 1844; CallospermophilusMerriam, 1897; IctidomysJ. A. Allen, 1877; PoliocitellusA. H. Howell, 1938; XerospermophilusMerriam, 1892; and UrocitellusObolenskij, 1927). Only Spermophilus sensu stricto is restricted to Eurasia. Generic subdivision of Spermophilus more aptly illuminates the taxonomic relationships, ecomorphological disparity, and biogeographic history of Holarctic ground squirrels.

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