Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Jewels Of Rodentia

Do you see that little guy up there, standing in the shadow of my blue ceramic birdbath?

That's a round-tailed ground squirrel, and we have them all over our property.

Sure, they're cute.  Those big black glassy eyes, the quick darting movements around the yard, the nibbling on scattered bird seed.  Look how alert this little guy is, standing up on his hind legs.

They are a little bit of a nuisance, though.  They dig holes all over the yard, connecting their tunnels underneath and sometimes creating hazards in the areas we walk.  A lot of the ground is soft and sandy around here and it's a little unsettling when the ground gives way beneath you, no matter how little it throws off your gait because you stepped on and collapsed an underground tunnel.

These little guys are well-adapted to life in the desert, although they're smart enough to stay out of the sun in the late afternoon when it's the hottest.  They live underground for most of the winter - going into torpor, not hibernation - in late August or September, and coming out in January or February. 

That explains why I've been seeing a lot more activity over the last month or so.  Just the other day I watched one of them eat around the entire bottom of this halo cactus.  I was waiting for the bite that was going to topple it on his head but it never came.

Here's the same guy who was eating the cactus, coming back up out of his hole to plan his next move. 

Information from the ADW says, "While active, these squirrels show two peaks in their activity, one in the morning, and one in the late afternoon. This pattern may lower the amount of time S. tereticaudus is exposed to the heat. These squirrels have been shown to have long periods of activity on overcast afternoons. When active, they spend about 50% of their time foraging."

So this is where the post goes in an unexpected direction. 

Squirrel porn.

Ed and I watch these little guys right outside our front living room window.  This week while we were watching I said to Ed, "What is that white fluff they're dragging around?"  I couldn't really get a good look at it because like I said, they're fast.  And small.  And I'm getting old and can't see things that small, that far away.

Ed said, "Those are his balls."

"His balls??" I said.  "No. That can't be right.  They can't possibly be his balls.  Look how big they are.  They're completely out of proportion."

"Well, I think that's what they are," he said.
So I kept watching.  And they dragged those furry white sacks everywhere.  Around cactus, over rocks, flailing behind them as they scampered across the yard.  I had to pay very close attention because it's difficult to follow them when they're moving so quickly, especially when there are several of them, darting around.

I was determined to get a picture of their balls.

And finally, I got this guy.  He came up out of a hole, scurried a few feet, and right behind him....


I'm sure you didn't come here to learn about the breeding habits of round-tailed ground squirrels, but here we are.
So after my conversation with Ed, I Googled "ground squirrel testicles". 

I can't believe I just wrote that sentence. I really hope no one is reviewing my browser history.  And I really hope I don't start getting spam based on that search.  

Anyway, what I discovered is that ground squirrels breed once per year, from January to April.  The breeding season of the Spermophilus Tereticaudus (Round-tailed Ground Squirrel) starts in mid-January with the enlargement of the male's testes.

Hence, the giant furry white sac. 

Geez.  That just looks so uncomfortable.  

According to the breeding information, females were observed to be pregnant from mid-March to late April and then in mid-April, the testes regress, and the males are no longer capable of insemination. 
Wow.  Never in my life did I see myself getting this much information on what's essentially a rodent.

Biology lesson over.

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Oh, The Horror I've Seen

2016: Barbed Badlands
2015: Exotic Tropicals
2014: Eggs, Milk, Bread, And Good Blood Pressure
2013: Clowns Looking For A Place To Live
2012: My Early Version Of Google
2011: Food With Integrity That Fuels Creativity
2010: If Only It Were Dollars Instead Of Miles
2009: The Last Bit Of Winter
2008: Eddie Fr-Eye-Day
2007: Authorized Personnel Only
2006: Stolen Zillow
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

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