109 Mexican Marmot-Squirrel
SPERMOPHILUS MEXICANUS.---LICHT. [Spermophilus mexicanus] MEXICAN MARMOT SQUIRREL (SPERMOPHILE). [Mexican Ground Squirrel] PLATE CIX.---OLD MALE, and YOUNG. S. magnitudine sciuri Hudsonici, auriculis brevibus, cauda longa, corpore supra rufo-fulvo, maculis vel strigio albis, subtus albo flavescente.
CHARACTERS. Size of Sciurus Hudsonicus; ears, short; tail, long; body, above, reddish-tawny, with white spots or bars; beneath, yellowish-white. SYNONYMES. CITILUS MEXICANUS. Licht., Darstellung neuer oder wenig bekannter Saugthiere, Berlin, 1827-1834. SPERMOPHILUS SPILOSOMA. Bennett, Proc. Zool. Soc., London, 1833, p. 40. DESCRIPTION. Form, very similar to the leopard spermophile (S. tridecemlineatus), although the present species is the larger of the two; ears, short, and clothed with short hairs; body, moderately thick; legs, rather short; toes and nails, long; tail, somewhat flat, distichous, and shorter than the body. COLOUR. Upper surface, rufous-brown, spotted with yellowish-white, the spots bordered posteriorly with black; under parts, pale buff-white; this colour extends somewhat upwards on the sides of the animal; feet, pale-yellow; tarsi, hairy beneath, the hairs extending forwards to the naked fleshy pads at the base of the toes; claws, dusky horn colour, with pale points; the fur at the roots (both on the upper and under parts of the animal) is gray. The eye is bordered with whitish-yellow; head and ears, rufous-brown; upper surface of tail, dark-brown, edged with a white fringe on the sides; towards the extremities the hairs are yellow, but they have a broad black band in the middle of their length; under surface of the tail of an almost uniform yellowish-hue, slightly inclining to rust colour. DIMENSIONS. Adult male. Inches. Lines. From point of nose to root of tail, . . . . . 10 0 Tail (vertebrae), . . . . . . . . . . . 4 0 Tail including hair, . . . . . . . . . . 5 0 Nose to end of head, . . . . . . . . . . 2 6 Length of ears, . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 4 From elbow of fore-leg to end of longest nail,. . 2 6 Tarsus (of hind leg), . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 Measurements of the specimen named S. Spilosoma by Mr. BENNETT: Young. Inches. Lines. From point of nose to root of tail, . . . . . 5 9 Tail (vertebrae), . . . . . . . . . . . 2 9 Tail including hair, . . . . . . . . . . 3 6 Nose to ear, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 Tarsus and nails, . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 Length of nail of middle toe, . . . . . . . 0 2 1/3 Length of fore foot and nails, . . . . . . . 0 9 1/2 Length of middle toe of fore foot to nail, . . . 0 2 1/2 HABITS. This Mexican Spermophile has all the activity and sprightliness of the squirrel family, and in its movements greatly reminds one of the little ground-squirrel (Tamias Lysteri) of the middle and northern States. It feeds standing on its hind feet and holding its food in the fore paws like a common squirrel, and is remarkable for the flexibility of its back and neck, which it twists sideways with a cunning expression of face while observing the looker on. When caught alive this pretty species makes a pet of no common attractions, having beautiful eyes and being very handsomely marked, while its disposition soon becomes affectionate, and it retains its gay and frolicsome habits. It will eat corn and various kinds of seeds, and is fond of bits of potatoe, apple, or any kind of fruit, as well as bread, pastry, cakes, &c.: grasses and clover it will also eat readily, and in fact it takes any kind of vegetable food. Even in the hottest summer weather this animal is fond of making a nest of tow and bits of carpet, and will sleep covered up by these warm materials as comfortably as if the temperature was at freezing point outside instead of 85 degrees. For some time we have had a fine living animal of this species in a cage, and he has been a source of great amusement to the little folks, who are fond of feeding him and pleased to see his antics. When threatened he shows fight, and approaches the bars of his cage gritting or chattering with his teeth like a little fury, and sometimes uttering a sharp squeak of defiance; but when offered any good thing to eat he at once resumes his usual playful manner, and will take it from the hand of any one. In eating corn this little animal picks out the soft part and leaves the shell and more compact portion of the grain untouched. At times he will coil himself up, lying on one side, almost entirely concealed by the tow and shredded carpet; if then disturbed, he looks up out of one eye without changing his position, and will sometimes almost bear to be poked with a stick before moving. Like the human race he occasionally shows symptoms of laziness or fatigue, by yawning and stretching. When first placed in his cage he manifested some desire to get out, and attempted to gnaw the wires: he would now and then turn himself upside down, and with his fore paws holding on to the wires above his head bite vigorously at the horizontal wires for half a minute at a time, before changing this apparently uncomfortable position. This Spermophile is not in the habit of eating a very great deal at a time, but seems to prefer feeding at intervals, even when plenty of food lies within his reach, retiring to his snug nest and sleeping for a while after eating a sufficient portion. When thus sleeping we sometimes found him lying on his back, with his fore paws almost joined, held close by his nose, while his hind legs were slightly turned to one side so as to give his body the appearance of complete relaxation. These animals are said to be tolerably abundant in Mexico and California, but only in the wooded districts. We were informed that they could easily be procured near Vera Cruz, Tuspan, Tampico, &c. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. Lichtenstein informs us that Mr. DEPPE, procured this animal in 1826, in the neighbourhood of Toluca in Mexico, where it was called by the inhabitants by the general term Urion, which was also applied to other burrowing animals. Captain BEECHY states that his specimen was procured in California, and we are informed by Captain J. P. MCCOWN that it exists along the Rio Grande and in other parts of Texas, where he has seen it as a pet in the Mexican ranchos. GENERAL REMARKS. In our first edition (folio plates), we gave figures of the young of this species as S. spilosoma of BENNETT, but having since ascertained that his specimen was only the young of S. Mexicanus, a species which had been previously published, we have now set down S. spilosoma as a synonyme of the latter, and have placed the figures of both old and young on the same plate.