Horse-Tailed Squirrel (Sundasciurus hippurus)

Habitat
Range elevation
1500 (high) m
(4921.26 (high) ft)

Sundasciurus hippurus is most often seen in lowland primary forest but has been found in re-grown logged forests and secondary forests. (Medway,1978; Payne,1985). (Medway, 1978; Payne, J, et al., 1985)

Physical Description
Range mass
260 to 420 g
(9.16 to 14.80 oz)

Range length
21.5 to 25 cm
(8.46 to 9.84 in)

Sundasciurus hippurus is the largest and most colourful of the Sunda tree squirrels, Sundasciurus, with considerable geographical colour variation in Borneo. This medium-sized squirrel always has a grey head, shoulders, and fore feet. This grey pelage may be more or less grizzled. The upperparts are reddish brown to chestnut. Subspecies differ, the hind legs may be grey or reddish brown and the underside is whitish, dull orange, or reddish brown. The tail is glossy black or grey and black banded. Despite the common name, horse-tailed squirrel, the tail is not very similar to that of a horse. There are some individuals resembling Callosciurus erythraeus. But in northern Malaysia, where both species occur, horse-tailed squirrels have uniform red undersides, not agouti, and darker and more bushy tails. (Payne, 1985, Lekagul & McNeely, 1977 ; Medway, 1978 ; Corbet & Hill, 1992)

Head and body length ranges from 21.5 cm to 25 cm and tail length from 24 to 29 cm. Hind foot length measures from 54 to 64 mm. They weight from 260 to 420 g. (Lekagul & McNeely, 1977; Medway, 1978)

The dental formula is 1/1 0/0 2/1 3/3 = 22. (Payne, 1985) (Corbet, G. B. and J. E. Hill, 1992; Lekagul B. and McNeely J. A., 1977; Medway, 1978; Payne, J, et al., 1985)

Reproduction

Very little is known about mating behavior and systems in Sundasciurus species.
Breeding season
These squirrels probably breed throughout the year.
Females have two or three pairs of mammae. Little is known of reproduction in these squirrels but perhaps, as in other diurnal squirrels in that region, they produce young throughout the year. Two close relatives, Sundasciurus lowii and S. tenuis, have litter sizes of 2 to 4.

Key Reproductive Features
Iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous
Little is known of parental investment in these squirrels. Females care for and nurse their offspring until independence in a tree nest.

Lifespan/Longevity

Status: captivity
14 (high) years
Lifespan is unknown in these squirrels. Most squirrel species have lifespan averaging 3 to 7 years.

Behaviour

Horse-tailed squirrels are diurnal. They are solitary or occur in pairs (Medway, 1978) They feed and move mainly in the lower and middle part of the understory, but nest in the upper canopy. Sometimes they came to the ground. In Malaysia they share their habitat with Callosciurus notatus and Callosciurus nigrovittatus in the same understory (8-18 m). Larger diurnal squirrels tend to live in the upper canopy and smaller species from the ground level through the lower canopy. (McKinnon, in McDonald, 2001). (McDonald David, 2001)
Key Behaviours
arboreal ; diurnal ; sedentary ; solitary

Communication and Perception

The most commonly heard call is "CHEEK!.....CHEEK!.......chekchekchekchek....." (Payne,1985)
Horse-tailed squirrels probably also communicate through visual, chemical, and tactile cues. Diurnal tree squirrels typically have exceptional vision and vibrissae on the chin and limbs that aids in the perception of surfaces, making these animals quite agile climbers. (Payne, J, et al., 1985)
Communication Channels
visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels
visual ; acoustic

Food Habits

Horse-tailed squirrels feed on seeds, fruits, and arthropods. In Malaysia they are reported to feed on bark and sap, while sympatric beautiful squirrels (Callosciurus species) feed more opportunistically on different plant material and insects (McKinnon in McDonald, 2001). Like other squirrels, they may include a diversity of foods in their diet, such as eggs, young vertebrates, and fungi. (McDonald David, 2001; Nowak, 1997)
Animal Foods
insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Plant Foods
leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; sap or other plant fluids


Predation

Horse-tailed squirrels avoid predation primarily through their agility and vigilance in the trees. Few predators can chase and capture adults the forest canopy. Young squirrels are vulnerable to predation in the nest by small, arboreal predators such as snakes, cats, or other squirrels. Their coloration may make them cryptic in the forest canopy.


Ecosystem Roles

Horse-tailed squirrels are important seed dispersers in primary and secondary lowland forests throughout their range. They may also serve as an important prey base for large predators, such as raptors.

Ecosystem Impact
disperses seeds


Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Horse-tailed squirrels may help to disperse the seeds of important lowland tree species.
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no negative impacts of horse-tailed squirrels on humans.


Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Near Threatened
More Information
Horse-tailed squirrels have no special status, although they may be threatened by habitat destruction throughout their range.

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