Wildlife & Biodiversity

First leucistic five-striped palm squirrel found in North India

The individual was found in a human-made forest in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district by an independent researcher

By Ramesh Singh Yadav
Published: Monday 15 April 2019
The leucistic squirrel photographed by Ramesh Singh Yadav.
The leucistic squirrel photographed by Ramesh Singh Yadav The leucistic squirrel photographed by Ramesh Singh Yadav

A leucistic five-striped palm squirrel (Funambulus penannti) has been recorded from a human-made subtropical forest at Zamania in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district.

The presence of the squirrel was confirmed by me, Ramesh Singh Yadav. I am an independent researcher and former research scholar at the Department of Entomology and Agricultural Zoology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

I believe this is the first time a leucistic five-striped palm squirrel has been reported reported from north India. Funambulus pennanti is more frequently found in the northern part of India including Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.

It is also found in other parts of the country including the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It also distributed in India’s neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Colour abnormalities are very rare in wild mammals. These abnormalities may be governed by several factors like environmental pollution, congenital infection, low nutrition food and genetic causes.

So what is the difference between leucism and albinism? Leucism is sometimes confused with Albinism. Leucism is a condition where there is partial loss of pigmentation in animals on the skin. However, the loss of colour does not extend to the eye. On the other hand, in albinism, the affected individual is totally white, with red eyes.

The first case of leucism in Funambulus pennanti was from Maharashtra’s Satara District. The Ghazipur squirrel was the second recorded case of leucism in Funambulus pennanti for India. Leucism in other species of Funambulus have previously been reported from Tamil Nadu and Goa. 

The survival rate of leucistic animals is comparatively lesser than non-leucistic ones because of their distinctive features which easily gets noticed by predators. This fact has now been proved. I have got to know that the squirrel was recently preyed upon by a stray dog.

And what is the taxonomy of the five striped palm squirrel. The genus Funambulus is one of the most common genera of the family Sciuridae. It has six species namely, Funambulus layardi (Layard’s palm squirrel), Funambulus palmarum (Indian palm squirrel), Funambulus tristriatus (Jungle palm squirrel), Funambulus pennantii (Northern palm squirrel), Funambulus obscurus (Dusky palm squirrel) and Funambulus sublineatus (Nilgiri striped squirrel).

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