A new species of ground squirrels has been discovered by Russian scientists

A new species of ground squirrels has been discovered by Russian scientists

Source: E.Simonov, http://nature .kremlin.ru
Scientists from the Institute of Animal Systematics and Ecology of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and nine other Russian institutes have discovered and described a new species of ground squirrels while studying the bioresources of Siberia. It was named "Vorontsov's ground squirrel" (Spermophilus vorontsovi) in honor of the Soviet and Russian zoologist. This was reported by the Wild Nature of Russia portal.

"The discovery occurred during the study of the structure of the skull and teeth, the coloring of the skin and the analysis of the nucleotide sequences of mitochondrial and nuclear genes. According to the identified signs, zoologists have established that the red–cheeked ground squirrel (S. erythrogenys) lives on the left bank of the Ob River, and another species, Vorontsov's ground squirrel, lives on the right bank," the message says. 

According to experts, it was Nikolai Vorontsov who first expressed the idea of the effect of geographical barriers in the form of large rivers on the genetic differentiation of terrestrial squirrel rodents.

"The population itself occupies a very small territory: It is bounded by the forest-steppe areas of the Salair ridge and the western slopes of the Kuznetsk Alatau in Southern Siberia. In the future, scientists propose to carry out a number of measures to protect this species", - 

During the study, scientists also identified two new species (S. musicus) and (S. selevini), whose status has changed as a result of the separation of the species. Thus, the independent species status of two small ground squirrels separated by the Volga has been confirmed, the portal reported. 

"The discovery of a new species is important for understanding the functioning of communities of living organisms in Siberia, since ground squirrels are an important food resource for birds of prey and mammals, improve soil fertility by digging burrows and transferring organic matter. Since each species has its own biological characteristics, the discovery of a new species will allow us to correctly assess its role in the ecosystems of the foothills of the Altai-Sayan mountain system," the message says.
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