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January 1, 2013

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)

Publication Year 2013
Title Introduction
Authors Todd C. Esque, Kenneth E. Nussear, Richard D. Inman, Marjorie D. Matocq, Peter J. Weisberg, Thomas E. Dilts, Philip Leitner
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70124014
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center