That which sits in the shadow of its tail

My friends Kate and Anoop are on vacation in India and Kate sent this submission of an adorable Indian BLM:

Here is either a chipmunk or an Indian squirrel that Anoop and I saw today in Bangalore, India, across the street from his grandmother’s house. It is hard to see but it has stripes on its back like an American chimpmunk though it is built more like an American squirrel. Actually, we saw four of them but this is the only one in a picture. They are surprisingly shy for living in the center of a city of 10 million people. Apparently sometimes they get all rabid and bite people, but I think this one is pretty safe.

This submision got me to thinking, what is the difference between a chipmunk and a squirrel? I know what a standard American chipmunk looks like, and I know what a common American squirrel looks like, but I have also seen something in America called a ground squirrel, which frankly looked rather like a chipmunk, and so now having thought about it I am all confused as to what is going on.

So, I headed over to Wikipedia, and since I want this site to be an educational one, I will now pass on what I learned:

According to Wikipedia, “Chipmunk is the common name for any small squirrel-like rodent species of the genus Tamias in the family Sciuridae” and “A squirrel is a small or medium-sized rodent of the family Sciuridae…The Sciuridae family also include flying squirrels, as well as ground squirrels such as the chipmunks, prairie dogs, and woodchucks.” So basically, chipmunks and squirrels are two BLMs in the same family. Also, chipmunks can evidently be referred to as “ground squirrels”, and so can prairie dogs and woodchucks, which makes no sense because neither of those animals is anything like a squirrel, as far as I am concerned.

As I mentioned previously, I have encountered an animal that I think is actually called a “ground squirrel” and out of curiosity, I looked it up as well: “The ground squirrels are all members of the Sciuridae most closely related to the genus Marmota and included in the tribe Marmotini. It includes six known genera. Although a type of ground squirrel, the chipmunks of the genus Tamias frequently spend time in trees.”

I found this entry to be rather uninformative, as well as rather lacking, gramatically.

In conclusion:

  1. Kate, in reference to your submission, it seems it would be correct for you to have said:
    1. “Here is a chipmunk…”
    2. “Here is an Indian squirrel…”
    3. “Here is a single entity which is a chipmunk AND an Indian squirrel…”

    and PS, how do you know where the squirrel/chipmunk’s grandmother lives?

  2. The word squirrel comes from the Latin word sciurus which comes from the Greek word skiouros which is a compound of two words and can be loosely translated to mean “That which sits in the shadow of its tail”.
  3. And, finally, the submitted photos:



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