Eastern grey squirrel
What does the scientific name mean?

The genus name, Sciurus, is derived from two Greek words, skia, meaning shadow, and oura, meaning tail. This name may have originated because the squirrel sits in the shadow of its big bushy tail. The epithet carolinesis refers to the Carolinas which is the first place that the species was documented by zoologists.

Taxonomic Classification of Sciurus carolinensis

Domain: Eukarya

    Kingdom: Animalia
        Phylum: Chordata
               Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
                            Genus: Sciurus
Sciurus carolinensis

Classifying organisms can be a very intricate and complicated process. Nevertheless, it is very beneficial to put organisms in to taxonomic classes for numerous reasons. Before taking this biology course, I considered taxonomy to be a tedious process that just seemed like a waste of time. It did not take long to realize I was completely wrong. By classifying organisms, we can group new organisms with already identified ones. This provides a basis for comparison and communication between organisms. To better understand why Sciurus carolinensis fits into each particular classification, I have provided some simplified explanations below.

Eukaryota- On the most basic level, this organism would be classified as eukaryotic. The name eukaryotic refers to the fact that it has a "true nucleus."  This is a distinguishing factor that separates them from organisms that are considered to be prokaryotic or "lacking a true nucleus."  In addition, eukaryotic cells have membrane bound organelles such as mitochondria. Examples of organisms that would be considered prokaryotic include bacteria. 

Animalia- Animals are considered to multicellular organisms that lack a cell wall. Additionally, they are heterotrophic meaning that they do not produce their own food. They also do not go throught  an alternation of generations which is something that both fungi and plants do.

Chordata- The eastern grey squirrel fits into the category of chordata because it pocesses the following five characteristics in some part of its developmental stage:  notochord, dorsal nerve chord, pharyngeal pouches, endostyle, and a post anal tail.

Mammalia- There are three main characteristics that separate mammals from other classes of animals. Mammals possess three inner ear bones, a body covered in hair/fur, and mammary glands in females. Milk is produced in these glands in order to feed young offspring.

Rodentia-  The eastern grey squirrel fits into the rodentia order because they develop incisors in the upper and lower jaws that are continuously growing. They spend a lot of time gnawing so that they can keep them short. Other organisms that fit into this order include guinea pigs, house mice, and common muskrats

Sciuridae- Finally, all squirrel species fit into the Sciuridae family. Although they have variations in their basic body forms al members of this family are characterized by their primative jaw structure. The
thirteen-lined ground squirrel for example, also fits within this family.

           Eastern grey squirrel eatting nut        Eastern grey squirrel in tree
Below is a phylogenetic tree of the Sciuridae Family. It should give you a better understanding of some of the species closest relatives.

Recreated Family Tree of Eastern grey squirrel

Now that you have gained a better idea of where this organism fits in the tree of life, visit the habitat page to gain a better understanding of where you can find this animal. Otherwise feel free to return home and explore on your own.