Today's Washington Post included an article about prairie conservation on U.S. farmlands, so I thought it might be interesting to take a look at prairie dogs for Mammal Monday. Earlier this year, I wrote about black footed ferrets and bison and their roles in the North American prairie habitat The prairie dog is the species upon which the bison and ferrets depend. It holds things together on the prairie, because it is the "keystone species" for this habitat. A keystone species is a species that, in spite of its biomass, plays a pivotal role in its ecosystem. The prairie dog definitely fills that bill on the prairie. It's the key prey species for black footed ferrets. Its burrowing lifestyle provides shelter for many other species. And its "grooming" of the grass around the tunnel openings affects plant species that other animals depend on.
And they're just so darn cute!