Gray-bellied Squirrel (Callosciurus caniceps)

 

Description

An adaptable species, the Grey-Bellied Squirrel occurs in a variety of habitats including primary and secondary forests, and mature gardens. It is not too shy and may approach close to human habitation at the forest edge where it feeds on fruits, seeds, flowers and sometimes insects.  The upper side of the body is greenish brown, and the belly light grey. The long tail is thick with fur, has grey bands and a black tip. During the dry season the upper side becomes more orange-brown in colour, thus the species is sometimes called the Golden-backed Squirrel.  The size and shape of the skulls of these squirrels indicated the differences between N group and S group from t-test and U-test. These results may be influenced by the two transitions of the phytogeography around the southernmost locality in N group and the northernmost locality in S group in the peninsular Thailand and Malay Peninsula. Localities which are located between N and S groups were called the Middle (M) group. From the PCA among N, S groups and each locality of M group, the plots of localities such as Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Trang in both sexes of M group could not be separated from those of N and S groups. We suggest that the sympatric distribution of N and S groups and the hybrid of N and S populations may be seen in these localities of M group.

These are medium sized squirrels which usually have speckled grey or olive brown  upperparts and silver grey underparts,The upperparts or sides, and, in a few geographical areas the underparts may have a reddish wash and some in the north of Thailand have a rich Rufus back with contrasts sharply with the grey legs and tail, and always as a black tip to the tail.

Range

The species occurs in southern Burma, Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia. It has also been introduced to Japan. Population: This species was rarely found in a survey conducted by Saiful and Nordin (2004) in Peninsular Malaysia (Weng River sub-catchment). It is common in Kuala Lumpur Parks (W. Duckworth pers. comm.) and in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand (W. Duckworth pers. comm.).The geographical variation of the gray-bellied squirrel (Callosciurus caniceps) was examined using optometry of skull in Southeast Asia. From the principal component analysis (PCA), the plots of the northern localities from Nan to Kanchanaburi and those of the southern localities from Narathiwat to Kuala Lumpur in male were completely separated. In female, the plots of the locality from Uttradit to Kanchanaburi and those of the locality from Pattani to Negri Sembilan were completely separated. We call these northern localities and southern localities which are distinguished by the PCA as N group and S group.

 

Habitat and Ecology:

This squirrel is well adapted to the presence of people. It may be found in plantations, cultivated areas, second growth and gardens, as well as forest. In natural habitats it seems to prefer dense dipterocarp forests with thick brushy vegetation. It may be found up to 2,500 m, but is usually found at lower elevations (Smith et al. 2008).
The Gray-bellied Squirrel is normally diurnal and arboreal (Saiful and Nordin 2004), although it sometimes descends to the ground to pick up food, which it then carries into a tree and eats. The diet consists of fruit and some insects. The spherical nest is built on the upper branches of a bush or small tree. The home range is small compared with other arboreal squirrels, and does not change in size seasonally.
It has been suggested that one of the reasons for low densities of this species in Malaysian tropical rain forest is competition from the great variety of other arboreal vertebrates (such as birds, and especially primates) for food, especially fruits and leaves, which are among the food items preferred by squirrels (Saiful and Nordin 2004). The nest of course twigs or leaves, lined with shredded fibres is usually found in in the upper branches of a small scrub or tree, nest have also been found amongst the ground in leaf litter at the base of bamboo. There are 3 to 4 young in a litter. The longest recorded life span was one in captivity at nine years and six months (Medway1969).
Systems: Terrestrial

Major Threat(s):

 The are no major threats to this species. 

Conservation Actions:

Saiful and Nordin (2004) state the need for further comparative study on this species' abundance, density and distribution and its relationship to forest structure or habitat quality, spatially and temporally, in hill dipterocarp forest of Malaysia.

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