Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chipmunk

This morning I had originally planned on another invertebrate, but I was more in the mood for something fuzzy and cute, which is why we're going to learn about the chipmunk!

Cliff Chipmunk
(Image Source)
There are actually twenty-five distinct species of Chipmunk, traditionally classified in one genus, though a three-genera organization is also floating around out there. Of all those species, only one, the Siberian Chipmunk, is found outside of North America. All species have striped patterns across their faces and bodies, and different species range in color from gray (like the Cliff Chipmunk) to reddish-brown. Chipmunks are the smallest members of the squirrel family overall, though the Eastern Chipmunk can reach sizes of over eleven inches.

Chipmunks are perhaps most notable for their giant puffy cheeks that they can carry food around in. Food collection is of vital importance to this tiny rodents; though they do hibernate, they don't store fat. Instead, they have to munch on their stored up food from time to time. They are actually omnivores; though they typically eat seeds, nuts, and berries, they will also consume insects and bird's eggs.

Eastern Chipmunk
(Image Source)
Chipmunks are also known for their calls- shrill chirps that serve two purposes. The first is to warn about danger, and the second is as a mating call. They are typically solitary mammals, but will come together during their two breeding seasons a year. Mating pairs are not monogamous. Females have a thirty day gestation period, and her young will remain with her for 6-8 weeks before going off on their own. Chipmunks have countless natural predators, and their average lifespan in the wild is only about one year.


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