Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Overview
Chipmunks are small striped squirrel
Squirrel
Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots , flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia...

s native to North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. They are usually classed either as a single genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 with three subgenera, or as three genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

.

Chipmunks are usually classified either as a single genus, Tamias, or as three genera: Tamias, containing the eastern chipmunk
Eastern Chipmunk
The eastern chipmunk is a small squirrel-like rodent found in eastern North America, the sole living member of the chipmunk genus and subgenus Tamias....

; Eutamias
Eutamias
Eutamias is a genus of chipmunks within the tribe Marmotini of the squirrel family. It includes a single living species, the Siberian chipmunk . The genus is often treated as a subgenus of Tamias, which is now restricted to the eastern chipmunk of North America...

, containing the Siberian chipmunk
Siberian Chipmunk
The Siberian chipmunk or Common Chipmunk is a chipmunk which occurs across northern Asia from central Russia to China, Korea, and Hokkaidō in northern Japan. The only chipmunk found outside North America, it is classed either as the only living member of the genus Eutamias, or a member of a genus...

; and Neotamias
Neotamias
Neotamias is a genus of chipmunks within the tribe Marmotini of the squirrel family. It contains 23 species, which mostly occur in western North America...

, containing the 23 remaining, mostly western, species. These classifications are arbitrary, and most taxonomies over the twentieth century have placed the chipmunks in a single genus.
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Encyclopedia
Chipmunks are small striped squirrel
Squirrel
Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots , flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia...

s native to North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. They are usually classed either as a single genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 with three subgenera, or as three genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

.

Etymology and taxonomy


Chipmunks are usually classified either as a single genus, Tamias, or as three genera: Tamias, containing the eastern chipmunk
Eastern Chipmunk
The eastern chipmunk is a small squirrel-like rodent found in eastern North America, the sole living member of the chipmunk genus and subgenus Tamias....

; Eutamias
Eutamias
Eutamias is a genus of chipmunks within the tribe Marmotini of the squirrel family. It includes a single living species, the Siberian chipmunk . The genus is often treated as a subgenus of Tamias, which is now restricted to the eastern chipmunk of North America...

, containing the Siberian chipmunk
Siberian Chipmunk
The Siberian chipmunk or Common Chipmunk is a chipmunk which occurs across northern Asia from central Russia to China, Korea, and Hokkaidō in northern Japan. The only chipmunk found outside North America, it is classed either as the only living member of the genus Eutamias, or a member of a genus...

; and Neotamias
Neotamias
Neotamias is a genus of chipmunks within the tribe Marmotini of the squirrel family. It contains 23 species, which mostly occur in western North America...

, containing the 23 remaining, mostly western, species. These classifications are arbitrary, and most taxonomies over the twentieth century have placed the chipmunks in a single genus. However, studies of mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA located in organelles called mitochondria, structures within eukaryotic cells that convert the chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, adenosine triphosphate...

 show that each of the three chipmunk groups is about as distinct genetically as genera such as Marmot
Marmot
The marmots are a genus, Marmota, of squirrels. There are 14 species in this genus.Marmots are generally large ground squirrels. Those most often referred to as marmots tend to live in mountainous areas such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Eurasian steppes, Carpathians, Tatras, and Pyrenees in...

a
and Spermophilus
Spermophilus
Spermophilus is a genus of ground squirrels in the family Sciuridae. The majority of ground squirrel species, over 40 in total, are usually placed in this genus...

.

Tamias is Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for "storer," a reference to the animals' habit of collecting and storing food for winter use.

The common name originally may have been spelled "chitmunk" (from the Odawa
Ottawa language
Ottawa is a dialect of the Ojibwe language, spoken by the Ottawa people in southern Ontario in Canada, and northern Michigan in the United States. Descendants of migrant Ottawa speakers live in Kansas and Oklahoma...

 word jidmoonh, meaning "red squirrel"; cf. Ojibwe, ajidamoo). The earliest form cited in the Oxford English Dictionary (from 1842) is "chipmonk", but "chipmunk" appears in several books from the 1820s and 1830s. Other early forms include "chipmuck" and "chipminck", and in the 1830s they were also referred to as "chip squirrels," possibly in reference to the sound they make. They are also called "striped squirrels", "chippers", "munks", "timber tigers", or "ground squirrels", though the name "ground squirrel" usually refers to other squirrels, such as those of the genus Spermophilus
Spermophilus
Spermophilus is a genus of ground squirrels in the family Sciuridae. The majority of ground squirrel species, over 40 in total, are usually placed in this genus...

.

Diet


Chipmunks have an omnivorous
Omnivore
Omnivores are species that eat both plants and animals as their primary food source...

 diet consisting of grain, nuts, fruit, berries, birds' eggs, small frogs, fungi, worms, insects and on occasions small mammals like young mice. At the beginning of autumn, many species of chipmunk begin to stockpile these goods in their burrows, for winter. Other species make multiple small caches of food. These two kinds of behavior are called larder hoarding and scatter hoarding. Larder hoarders usually live in their nests until spring. Cheek pouches allow chipmunks to carry multiple food items to their burrows for either storage or consumption.

Ecology and life history


Eastern chipmunks mate in early spring and again in early summer, producing litters of four or five young twice each year. Western chipmunks only breed once a year. The young emerge from the burrow after about six weeks and strike out on their own within the next two weeks.

These small mammals fulfill several important functions in forest
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

 ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s. Their activities harvesting and hoarding tree seeds play a crucial role in seedling
Seedling
thumb|Monocot and dicot seedlingsA seedling is a young plant sporophyte developing out of a plant embryo from a seed. Seedling development starts with germination of the seed. A typical young seedling consists of three main parts: the radicle , the hypocotyl , and the cotyledons...

 establishment. They consume many different kinds of fungi, including those involved in symbiotic mycorrhizal associations
Mycorrhiza
A mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant....

 with trees, and are an important vector for dispersal of the spores of subterranean sporocarps
Sporocarp (fungi)
In fungi, the sporocarp is a multicellular structure on which spore-producing structures, such as basidia or asci, are borne...

 (truffles) which have co-evolved with these and other mycophagous mammals and thus lost the ability to disperse their spores through the air.

Chipmunks construct expansive burrow
Burrow
A burrow is a hole or tunnel dug into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct of locomotion. Burrows provide a form of shelter against predation and exposure to the elements, so the burrowing way of life is quite popular among the...

s which can be more than 3.5 m in length with several well-concealed entrances. The sleeping quarters are kept extremely clean as shells and feces are stored in refuse tunnels.

Chipmunks play an important role as prey for various predatory mammals and birds, but are also opportunistic predators themselves, particularly with regard to bird eggs and nestlings. In Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

, mountain bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
The Mountain Bluebird is a medium-sized bird weighing about 2-5 ounces, with a length from 15–20 cm . They have light underbellies and black eyes. Adult males have thin bills are bright turquoise-blue and somewhat lighter beneath. Adult females have duller blue wings and tail, grey breast,...

s (Siala currucoides) have been observed energetically mobbing chipmunks that they see near their nest trees.

Chipmunks typically live about three years, although have been observed living to nine years in captivity.

Chipmunks in captivity are said to sleep for an average of about 15 hours a day. It is thought that mammals which can sleep in hiding, such as rodents and bats, tend to sleep longer than those that must remain on alert.

Classification


Subgenus Tamias
Eastern Chipmunk
The eastern chipmunk is a small squirrel-like rodent found in eastern North America, the sole living member of the chipmunk genus and subgenus Tamias....

  • Eastern chipmunk
    Eastern Chipmunk
    The eastern chipmunk is a small squirrel-like rodent found in eastern North America, the sole living member of the chipmunk genus and subgenus Tamias....

    , Tamias striatus

Subgenus Eutamias
Eutamias
Eutamias is a genus of chipmunks within the tribe Marmotini of the squirrel family. It includes a single living species, the Siberian chipmunk . The genus is often treated as a subgenus of Tamias, which is now restricted to the eastern chipmunk of North America...

  • Siberian chipmunk
    Siberian Chipmunk
    The Siberian chipmunk or Common Chipmunk is a chipmunk which occurs across northern Asia from central Russia to China, Korea, and Hokkaidō in northern Japan. The only chipmunk found outside North America, it is classed either as the only living member of the genus Eutamias, or a member of a genus...

    , Eutamias sibiricus

Subgenus Neotamias
Neotamias
Neotamias is a genus of chipmunks within the tribe Marmotini of the squirrel family. It contains 23 species, which mostly occur in western North America...

  • Alpine chipmunk
    Alpine Chipmunk
    The alpine chipmunk is a species of chipmunk native to the high elevations of the Sierra Nevada of California. They have been observed at altitudes from around 2,300 meters  to 3,900 meters , though they rarely occur below 2,500 meters .- Description :They have a...

    , Neotamias alpinus
  • Yellow-pine chipmunk
    Yellow-pine Chipmunk
    The yellow-pine chipmunk is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family. It is found in Canada and the United States....

    , Neotamias amoenus
  • Buller's chipmunk
    Buller's Chipmunk
    The Buller's chipmunk is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family. It is endemic to Mexico....

    , Neotamias bulleri
  • Gray-footed chipmunk
    Gray-footed Chipmunk
    The gray-footed chipmunk is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to New Mexico and Texas in the United States. Its natural habitat is temperate forests....

    , Neotamias canipes
  • Gray-collared chipmunk
    Gray-collared Chipmunk
    The gray-collared chipmunk is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to Arizona and New Mexico in the United States....

    , Neotamias cinereicollis
  • Cliff chipmunk
    Cliff Chipmunk
    The cliff chipmunk is a small, bushy-tailed squirrel that typically lives along cliff walls or boulder fields bordering Pinyon-juniper woodlands in the Western United States and Mexico. Cliff chipmunks are very agile, and can often be seen scaling steep cliff walls. Cliff chipmunks do not amass...

    , Neotamias dorsalis
  • Durango chipmunk
    Durango Chipmunk
    The Durango chipmunk is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family. It is endemic to Mexico....

    , Neotamias durangae
  • Merriam's chipmunk
    Merriam's Chipmunk
    Merriam's chipmunk is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family. It is found in central and southern California. in the United States and a small area in northern Baja California, Mexico....

    , Neotamias merriami
  • Least chipmunk
    Least Chipmunk
    The least chipmunk is the smallest chipmunk in North America. It is also the most widespread species of chipmunk in North America occurring across north-central and western United States and from British Columbia and southern Yukon to western Quebec in Canada...

    , Neotamias minimus
  • California chipmunk
    California Chipmunk
    The California chipmunk is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It is found in Baja California, Mexico and in southern California in the United States....

    , Neotamias obscurus
  • Yellow-cheeked chipmunk
    Yellow-cheeked Chipmunk
    The yellow-cheeked chipmunk is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It is endemic to the areas near the coast of northern California in the United States....

    , Neotamias ochrogenys
  • Palmer's chipmunk
    Palmer's Chipmunk
    Palmer's chipmunk is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is only found in the Spring Mountains of Clark County, Nevada in the United States. Its natural habitat is temperate forests. It is threatened by habitat loss....

    , Neotamias palmeri
  • Panamint chipmunk
    Panamint Chipmunk
    The Panamint chipmunk is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It is endemic to desert mountain areas of southeast California and southwest Nevada in the United States....

    , Neotamias panamintinus
  • Long-eared chipmunk
    Long-eared Chipmunk
    The long-eared chipmunk , also called the Sacramento chipmunk or the four-banded chipmunk, is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It is endemic to the central and northern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada in the United States...

    , Neotamias quadrimaculatus
  • Colorado chipmunk
    Colorado Chipmunk
    The Colorado chipmunk is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It is endemic to Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico in the United States.-References:...

    , Neotamias quadrivittatus
  • Red-tailed chipmunk
    Red-tailed Chipmunk
    The red-tailed chipmunk is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family. It is found in Alberta and British Columbia in Canada and Montana, Idaho and Washington in the United States....

    , Neotamias ruficaudus
  • Hopi chipmunk
    Hopi chipmunk
    The Hopi chipmunk is a small chipmunk found in Colorado, Utah and Arizona in the southwestern United States. It was previously grouped with the Colorado Chipmunk, T. quadrivittatus....

    , Neotamias rufus
  • Allen's chipmunk
    Allen's Chipmunk
    Allen's chipmunk is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to the United States. The main populations are found in California, specifically the humid forests of the mountainous areas of Northern California including the Northern Coastal Range of California, the Trinity Alps,...

    , Neotamias senex
  • Siskiyou chipmunk
    Siskiyou Chipmunk
    The Siskiyou chipmunk is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to northern California and central Oregon in the United States....

    , Neotamias siskiyou
  • Sonoma chipmunk
    Sonoma Chipmunk
    The Sonoma chipmunk is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It is endemic to northwestern California in the United States....

    , Neotamias sonomae
  • Lodgepole chipmunk
    Lodgepole Chipmunk
    The Lodgepole chipmunk is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is found in the U.S. state of California at elevations from .-External links:*...

    , Neotamias speciosus
  • Townsend's chipmunk
    Townsend's Chipmunk
    Townsend's chipmunk is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It lives in the forests of the Pacific Northwest of North America, from British Columbia through western Washington and Oregon. A large chipmunk, adults can be from nose to tail...

    , Neotamias townsendii
  • Uinta chipmunk
    Uinta Chipmunk
    The Uinta chipmunk, Neotamias umbrinus, is a species of Chipmunk, a rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to the United States.-Habitat:...

    , Neotamias umbrinus


Extinct:
  • Tamias aristus

Further reading

  • Baack, Jessica K. and Paul V. Switzer. "Alarm Calls Affect Foraging Behavior in Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias Striatus, Rodentia: Sciuridae)." Ethology. Vol. 106. Dec. 2003. 1057–1066.
  • Gordon, Kenneth Llewellyn. The Natural History and Behavior of the Western Chipmunk and the Mantled Ground Squirrel. Oregon: 1943
  • Nichols, John D. and Earl Nyholm (1995). A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

External links