Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, Nicole Lee, Biology 101, concepts of Biology, Aviano Air Base, 20 April 2007 Although Prairie Dogs name includes the word "dog," they are not dogs but rodents. They belong to Kingdom Animalia. Prairie dog's scientific name is Cynomys. The black-tailed prairie dogs, the most common kind, is named as Cynomys ludovicianus, the Latin form of Ludwig of Louis relating back to the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806, when prairie dogs were first collected for science (2)
The ecosystem roles that prairie dogs play are rather significant. Prairie dogs are primary consumers and they are important food source of all prairie-living predators such as fox, ferrets, snakes, and owls. Certain animals' survival in the wild heavily depends on the prairie dogs as main food source, such as black-footed ferrets. (1) Not only prairie dogs provide food source to their predators, the burrows they build to shelter themselves also provide big impact on other animals. For an example, snakes can hibernate in their burrows during the winter and eat their pups. Prairie dog town, which consists of multiple tunnels, can even be considered as biological oasis, since it attracts large numbers of species for using them as food resource and utilize their burrows. (2)
In my opinion, prairie dogs' appearances resemble cute, tiny bears. Black-tailed prairie dogs have tail that has black tip, hence the name. Their average body length is 30cm and the tail length is usually 8cm. (3) Prairie dogs have short legs and long sharp claws. Their weight ranges from 0.5 to 1.0 kg. (4) However, they weigh the most during autumn and least during winter. Males tend to be slightly heavier than the females, by 10 to 15% higher. (1)
Prairie dogs are mammals, therefore they breathe with their lungs through their nose. Cookie, one of the pet prairie dogs I used to have, once had to be seen by a veterinarian, because she developed a pneumonia problem. She was making...
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