The colour phases of the European red squirrel in Ukraine: Similarities and differences by craniometric characters

Keywords: red squirrel; colour phase; morphological variation; craniometric character; discriminant analysis.


The different colour phases of the European red squirrel occuring in Ukraine were analysed in a morphological context. They are indicated in the literature as different subspecies of Sciurus vulgaris L. and described only based on their coat colouration. In Ukraine, at least three colour phases occur: dark (black and brown), red, and light red, which in natural habitats occur separately from one another. These phases co-occur in human settlements and at different altitudes, in particular at the boundary of the lowland and piedmont zones and of piedmont and mountainbelts. The aim of the present study was to find some other morphological differences between the red squirrel’s phases in Ukraine beyond their coat colouration and to reveal the possible interaction between colouration and morphological variation of the squirrels. Eighteen craniometric and four external characters were measured and analysed. Results have shown that the squirrel’s colour phases differ among themselves by some characters, although the most visible differences were revealed when all measurents were analysed together. It has been revealed that the three colour phases are stabilized types (populations) manifested in a multidimensional space as different populations with minimal overlap (up to 10%). The population of dark squirrels in Ukraine is morphologically the most distant from the light red phase and less so from the red one. The dark phase significantly differs from the red phase by 9 of 18 craniometric characters with Mayr’s coefficient of divergence (CDmin = 0.62, CDmax = 0.96). The dark phase significantly differs from the light red phase by two craniometric characters according to ANOVA, but only by one character according to Mayr’scoefficient of divergence (CD = 0.96). The red and light red phases significantly differ by four parameters having CDmin = 0.64 and CDmax = 0.76. The geographically transitional red phase is morphologically intermediate according to the results of discriminant analysis.


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