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Any of about 260 species in 50 genera (family Sciuridae) of mostly diurnal rodents found almost worldwide. Many species are arboreal; some are terrestrial. All species have strong hind legs and a hairy tail. They vary widely in colour and form and range in total length from the 4-in. (10-cm) African pygmy squirrel to the giant squirrels of Asia, about 35 in. (90 cm) long. Tree dwellers live in a tree hollow or nest, and most are active year-round. Ground dwellers live in burrows, and many become dormant in winter (hibernate) or summer (estivate). Most species are primarily vegetarian and are fond of seeds and nuts; some eat insects or supplement their diet with animal protein. See alsochipmunk; flying squirrel; ground squirrel; marmot; prairie dog.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on squirrel, visit Britannica.com.