Do You Know?
- Beautiful squirrels, aren't they? The taxonomic group they belong to, Callosciurus, literally mean "beautiful squirrels"!
Teamwork! Plantain squirrels make different warning calls to alert nearby squirrels; for snakes, for predators in the air and on the ground 2 .
<-------- For optimal viewing of this webpage, please expand your browser window until this line remains unbroken. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->
Know Thy Squirrel!
Plantain squirrels are small, furry animals often found in parks and forest reserves in Singapore 1
Be a Singapore Squirrel Expert!
Here are some squirrels found in Singapore's nature reserves and parks, learn to tell them apart!
|Common Name||Plantain squirrel||Finlayson's squirrel||Slender squirrel||Shrew-faced ground squirrel|
Sides with black and white
All or partly
white, red or black
Short, bushy tail
|Size||Medium, ~ 20cm||Medium, ~ 20cm||Small, ~ 15 cm||Medium, ~ 20cm|
|Native to Singapore?||Native||Introduced||Native||Native|
Biology of Plantain Squirrels
|Plantain squirrels love durians too! Photo by Johnny Wee.|
Plantain squirrel chewing on a variety of fruits.
Plantain squirrels eat:
Fruits and leaves mostly, but also feed on bird eggs and insects where available 4 .
Around dawn, noon and dusk, as though they have three daily meals like us humans 5 .
|Tail flicking by plantain squirrel. Photo by Johnny Wee.|
Plantain squirrels adapting well in Singapore (Clementi Woods Park). Tail flicks can be seen from 2:20s onwards.
Plantain squirrels communicate by:
- Tail movements to other members in their social group, look out for them in your next park visit!
|Situation||Vocalization||Reaction of Other Squirrels||Significance|
|After mating||Barks produced by male||Female and other males stop moving||Improves fertilization|
|Ground carnivore sighted||Repetitious, staccato barks||Other squirrels run up nearby tree||Escape to trees to avoid ground predators|
|Aerial raptor (bird) spotted||Single bark||Other squirrels stop moving||Avoid detection by reducing movements|
|Snake encountered||Rattles and squeaks||Converge on and mob snake||Deter snake, protecting vulnerable young squirrels|
Female plantain squirrels can mate with up to four males over a seven-hour of mating period! 4
Most female squirrels are pregnant every month of the year, with a litter size between one and four 4 .
Male squirrels may guard females for up to three hours (or one minute only) to prevent other males from stealing the mate 6 .
Plantain squirrels are:
Plantain squirrels are found in:
The Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Java, Sumatra, southern Thailand, and other nearby islands 8 . (Refer to map below)
Plantain squirrel distribution. Yellow: Native, Purple: Introduced. Adapted from IUCN Red List9 .
Befitting their widespread presence and abundance, plantain squirrels are listed as:
- Not Threatened in the Singapore Red Data Book (2008).
Least Concern in IUCN, owing to their widespread presence and abundance in the region 10 .
Squirrels belong to the taxonomic group Sciuridae and evolved around 30 to 40 million years ago 4
. They are one of the largest group in mammals, with over 270 species across 50 genera 11
. The plantain squirrel belong to the group Callosciurus with 14 species in total 4
. It is the only native member of Callosciurus in Singapore, the other species, Callosciurus finlaysonii(Finlayson's squirrel) is an introduced species 4
|Southern Asian tree squirrels||Callosciurinae|
|Plantain squirrels||Callosciurus notatus|
Phylogenetic studies of plantain squirrels remain unexplored, although other species in the genus have been studied.
Below are taxonomic studies of increasing exclusivity down to the group Callosciurus:
Simplified Phylogeny of Squirrels (Sciuridae)4 .
Phylogeny of group Callosciurini, extracted from study by Steppan et al.12 . The study was conducted using nuclear DNA (c-myc and RAG1, ~4500 bp) and lineage tree was constructed using parsimony, likelihood and Bayesian analyses.
Phylogeny of group Callosciurini, involving C. erythraeus & C. prevostii12 .
Oshida et al. conducted a phylogenetic study of five Callosciurus species using partial mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences (1080 bp) 13 . Tree construction was conducted using parsimony, neighbour-joining and likelihood analyses. This study provided greater support for the hypothesis that Callosciurus species are separated into mainland and Sundaland units.
Phylogeny of Five Callosciurus species13 .
Type Information 14
Type specimens are crucial for species description and subsequent identification. This is especially true for a species such as the plantain squirrel, which was described more than two centuries ago!
|Location of Specimen||Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences|
|Specimen Type Status||Holotype|
Thank you for your visit and interest in knowing more about plantain squirrels.
Feel free to contact Yong Liang at the following email should you have any feedback:
|1||Tan, H.T.W., Chou, L.M., Yeo, D.C.J. and Ng, P.K.L. (2010). The National Heritage of Singapore (3rd edition), Prentice Hall, Singapore. [ a b c d e f ]|
|2||Tamura, N. and Yong, H.S. (1993). Vocalizations in response to predators in three species of Malaysian Callosciurus (Sciuridae), Journal of Mammalogy, Vol 74, 703-714. [ a b c d e ]|
|3||Mammal Species, National Parks Board. URL: www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=130&Itemid=128. Accessed 23 November 2012.|
|4||Thorington, R.W., Koprowski, J.L., Steele, M.A. and Whatton, J.F. (2012). Squirrels of the World, Johns Hopkins University Press, Maryland, United States of America. [ a b c d e f g h i ]|
|5||Hafidzi, M.N. (1998). Plantain squirrel Callosciurus notatus in a plantation habitat, Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, Vol 21, 23-28. [ a b ]|
|6||Tamura, N. (1993). Role of sound communication in mating of Malaysian Callosciurus (Sciuridae), Journal of Mammalogy, Vol 74, 468-476. [ a b c ]|
|7||Becker, P. (1985). Why tropical squirrels carry seeds out of source crowns, Journal of tropical Ecology, Vol 1, 183-186.|
|8||Encyclopedia of Life, Plantain Squirrel - Callosciurus notatus. URL: eol.org/pages/313042/overview. Accessed 15 November 2012.|
|9||IUCN Red List, Callosciurus notatus (Plantain Squirrel). URL: www.iucnredlist.org/details/3600/0. Accessed 15 November 2012.|
|10||IUCN Red List, Callosciurus notatus (Plantain Squirrel). URL: www.iucnredlist.org/details/3600/0. Accessed 15 November 2012.|
|11||Hoffmann, R.S., Anderson, C.G., Thorington, R.W.J., Heaney, L.R. (1993). Family Sciuridae. In: Wilson, D.E., Reeder, D.M. (Eds.), Mammal Species of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, pp. 419–465.|
|12||Steppan, S.J., Storz, B.L. and Hoffmann, R.S. (2004). Nuclear DNA phylogeny of the squirrels (Mammalia: Rodentia) and the evolution of arboreality from c-myc and RAG1, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol 30, 703-719. [ a b ]|
|13||Oshida, T., Yasuda, M., Endo, H., Hussein, N.A. and Masuda, R. (2001). Molecular phylogeny of five squirrel species of the genus Callosciurus (Mammalia, Rodentia) inferred from cytochrome b gene sequences, Mammalia, Vol 65, 473-482. [ a b ]|
|14||GBIF Portal, Callosciurus notatus. URL: data.gbif.org/occurrences/442360784. Accessed 22 November 2012.|
This page was authored by Ee Yong Liang
Last curated on 2012