Introduction: Chapter 1

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The Mohave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis), named just over a century ago (Merriam 1889), is precinctive to the western Mojave Desert in California, USA, and occupies portions of Kern, Los Angeles, Inyo and San Bernardino counties (Best 1995). Early estimates of the geographic range of the squirrel are just 20,000 km2 in area (Hall 1981, Zeiner et al. 1988‐ 1990), one of the smallest distributions among North American ground squirrel species (Hoyt 1972, P. Leitner – pers. obs.). The closest living relative of the Mohave ground squirrel (MGS) is the round‐tailed ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus tereticaudus). Mohave ground squirrels have a “shorter tail with distichous hairs and white undersurface”, but visual differences between the two species are subtle (Hafner and Yates 1983). Speciation likely occurred when portions of the parent population were isolated 4‐1.6 million years ago during the accelerated uplift of the Sierra Nevada, the Transverse Ranges and the Mojave River system, resulting in separation and isolation with MGS evolving in refugia (Hafner 1992, Bell et al. 2009). Subsequently, fluvial‐ lacustrine systems in the Mojave River basin provided vicariance features during the Pleistocene (Hafner 1992, Bell et al. 2009). Responding to previous climate change, the two species potentially migrated into their current ranges from southern refugia after the Last Glacial Maximum, eventually abutting each other along the Mojave River (Hafner and Yates 1983). The species are capable of hybridizing, but intercrosses appear to be rare, and sampling near the zones of potential hybridization remains limited (Bell and Matocq 2011). The only other similar sized squirrel occupying the range of MGS is the white‐tailed antelope ground squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus) whose range entirely overlaps MGS, but is easily distinguished by its bright white dorso‐lateral stripes (Best 1995)

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Introduction: Chapter 1
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher University of Nevada, Reno
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 6 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype Federal Government Series
Larger Work Title Habitat modeling, landscape genetics, and habitat connectivity for the Mohave ground squirrel to guide renewable energy development, CEC‐500‐2014‐003
First page 7
Last page 12