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Going for the berries - Original nature photography by Bob Orsillo
Chipmunks are small striped squirrels native to North America and Asia. They are usually classed either as a single genus, or as three.
Chipmunks are usually classified either as a single genus, Tamias, or as three genera: Tamias, containing the eastern chipmunk; Eutamias, containing the Siberian chipmunk; and Neotamias, containing the 23 remaining, mostly western, species. These classifications are arbitrary, and most taxonomies over the twentieth century have placed the chipmunks in a single genus. However, studies of mitochondrial DNA show that each of the three chipmunk groups is about as distinct genetically as genera such as Marmota and Spermophilus.
Tamias is Greek for "storer," a reference to the animals' habit of collecting and storing food for winter use.
The common name originally may have been spelled "chitmunk" (from the Odawa word jidmoonh, meaning "red squirrel"; c.f. Ojibwe, ajidamoo). However, the earliest form cited in the Oxford English Dictionary (from 1842) is "chipmonk". Other early forms include "chipmuck" and "chipminck", and in the 1830s they were also referred to as "chip squirrels," possibly in reference to the sound they make. They are also called "striped squirrels", "chippers", "munks", "timber tigers", or "ground squirrels", though the name "ground squirrel" usually refers to other squirrels, such as those of the genus Spermophilus.
September 26th, 2010
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