The Indian giant squirrel is one of the largest squirrels in the world, with some measuring close to two feet long from nose to tail. They are native to forests in India and can be found throughout most of the country. They prefer to nest is tall trees to avoid predators.
Indian giant squirrels have a fur pattern consisting of two, three, or four colors, ranging from dark inky black to a light tan color. There are four subspecies, each one with its own typical fur pattern. Ratufa indica maxima is the darkest, followed by R. i. bengalensis (a reddish-brown color), R. i. indica (a red and tan pattern), and finally R. i. centralis (who has an almost entirely light tan coat). The most variation in pattern between squirrels of the same species is in the color of their tail tips. Scientists used to believe that the difference in tail colors meant that there were 10 species of Indian giant squirrels, but nowadays it is believed that there are only these four.
Indian giant squirrels are not naturally social animals. They usually live alone or with one other squirrel. When groups do gather for mating, they are collectively referred to as a colony or a scurry. A baby squirrel is called a pup or a kit. A litter of young squirrels, born in the spring, are usually as large as one to three kits. The average size is just one kit, though.
Some modes of communication between squirrels are scent and vocalizations. Some have also been observed communicating through tail movements.
These squirrels build large nests made of twigs and leaves in the treetops, away from ground-dwelling predators and as a shelter from airborne predators. One squirrel may have several nests in roughly the same area. Many will be for sleeping and sheltering, and one may be for a nursery. In their lifetime, a squirrel stays in a rather small area and stays in the treetops, only going to the ground with other squirrels. They are often hidden in the treetops and so it’s difficult for researchers to learn a lot about them.
Being diurnal, Indian giant squirrels are most active throughout the morning and afternoon, with a nap usually being taken around midday. They eat fruit, nuts, flowers, and tree bark. Some species of Indian giant squirrels also eat insects or eggs.
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