The genus Atlantoxerus contains the single species Atlantoxerus getulus, the Barbary Ground Squirrel. This particular species of squirrel was first named in Africa by C. Linnaeus in 1758. By 1978, the squirrel’s location was restricted to the Barbary Coast in Northwest Africa (Corbet 1978). This is the only species of squirrel that is located north of the Sahara Desert in Africa.
The Barbary Ground Squirrel has been observed to occupy mostly rocky environments (Nowak 1999), where it creates burrows in the ground or possible dens within crevices of large rocks. Activity outside the burrow or den is limited to early morning and late afternoon due to high temperatures during the height of the day. One characteristic of these ground squirrels that distinguishes them from many other species of squirrel is their apparent food preference. The large, olive-like fruit and seeds of the Argan tree in Morocco is a primary source of food for these squirrels. Colonies of multiple groups or families of the squirrels are evident in areas where there is a secure food source. The squirrels have been observed to migrate when their population becomes excessive and the food source becomes scarce (Nowak 1999). A. getulus inhabits Morocco and Algeria, countries on the north-western coast of Africa (Corbet 1978). Within this region, the squirrel has been found to occupy all areas between the Mediterranean coasts and the three ranges of the Atlas Mountains, to an elevation of more than 4,000 meters (Krapp in Grzimek 1990). In addition, the squirrel has been found on the island of Fuerteventura, located in the Canary Islands off the west coast of Morocco (Nowak 1999).
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