Prairie dogs are small stout-bodied burrowing rodents with shallow cheek pouches native to both North and Central America. more...
In 2003 they came to public attention in the U.S. because pet prairie dogs spread monkeypox, a mild variant of smallpox previously unknown in North America, to more than a dozen people. The prairie dogs apparently contracted the disease from a Gambian pouched rat in a Chicago-area pet store.
An average size is 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) long. In the United States prairie dogs are primarily found west of the Mississippi River, but they have been introduced into a few eastern locales. All are herbivores, and in settled regions they sometimes damage crops severely. They have been eliminated from certain areas of the Great Plains where ranchers regard them as pests. The mass culling of the prairie dog lead to the near extinction of the black-footed ferret, which eats the prairie dog.
- ORDER RODENTIA
- Suborder Sciurognathi
- FAMILY SCIURIDAE (Squirrels, chipmunks, marmots and prairie dogs)
- Subfamily Sciurinae
- Genus Cynomys
- Gunnison's Prairie Dog, Cynomys gunnisoni
- White-tailed Prairie Dog, Cynomys leucurus
- Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Cynomys ludovicianus
- Mexican Prairie Dog, Cynomys mexicanus
- Utah Prairie Dog, Cynomys parvidens
- About 35 other genera in subfamily
The White-tailed Prairie Dog was described by Ludvig/Louis, and was named after the 1805 Lewis and Clark Expedition where prairie dogs were first identified for scientific study.
Prairie dogs as food
Please see Taboo food and drink.
Prairie dogs' complex language
Dr. Con Slobodchikoff, who has studied prairie dog language for over 20 years, has made some very astonishing discoveries in this field. Prairie dogs have a very complex language that includes verbs, nouns, and adjectives. The language is not innate; baby prairie dogs must learn it, and different colonies have distinct "dialects." Three criteria that must be present in order for "noise" to be termed "language" are meaning, productivity (you can use the same words to make an infinite number of new communications), and displacement (you can use language to talk about things that aren't present). Dr. Slobodchikoff's research has proven that prairie dog language meets all criteria. The study of animal language is in an embyonic stage. There are new discoveries occurring every day.
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