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Word of the Week: Fossorial
April 11, 2018 by Sammy Tangir

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Wednesday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

This time of year chipmunks (a semi-fossorial mammal species) are coming out of their burrows after a winter of hibernation. This chipmunk is ready for a long-awaited feast! Photo credit: Andrew Yee

Fossorial [fo-SOHR-ee-uhl] (adjective): An animal adapted to living underground, often by digging a burrow and/or tunnels. Some examples of fossorial animals are: earthworms, ants, moles, voles, and shrews. 

Fossorial animals are adapted to successfully dig burrows and spend time underground. The star-nosed mole, for example, has an impressive and ultra sensitive nose to make navigating the underground world far easier. This time of year semi-fossorial (spending an extended period of time underground, but not all the time) mammals, such as chipmunks and groundhogs/woodchucks, are coming out to forage and warm up in the sun.

Fossorial animals have the potential to impact their entire ecosystem. Vacant burrows are often reused and adopted by other species, or passed down through the generations. For example, old woodchuck burrows can become homes for rabbits, foxes, skunks, or weasels. Burrows and tunnels also create air pockets and pathways for water and nutrients to move which can improve soil quality.

Sammy Tangir - Sammy is a serious nature nerd and especially enthusiastic about plants! When she is not thinking of next week's nature word, she is working as an outdoor educator and practicing her wood carving skills.

Sources are listed below, and digital sources are also linked throughout the blog post.

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