Do squirrels have four legs, or two arms and two legs?

I first asked this question many years ago, and it has since unearthed a whole array of conundrums and questions that I have struggled to get a conclusive answer to.

See a squirrel (often described as a quadruped, 4 feet, which implies 4 legs) can stand on its back two legs and hold a nut in the paws of its front two legs - but those front legs are jointed in a very similar way to arms, look like arms and are being used as arms.

When a squirrel runs, it uses all four limbs - but then so does a gorilla, and that definitely has arms.

So in trying to answer this seemingly simple question I ended up lost in a world of definitions and further questions - questions like "what is an arm anyway?" "what is the difference between a paw and a hand or foot?" - and after trying to find out the answers to those questions I ended up in a much stranger world. Octopuses have arms, but no hands - bats have hands, but no arms (I will spare you one of the resulting conversations which wanted to know how long a nose has to be until it's a trunk, especially concerning anteaters).

I could be wrong but it seems to me that if your front paws are called hands, then you have two arms and two legs. Koalas, for instance, are often described as having hands despite also being described as quadrupeds. Perhaps the differences are merely linguistic choices rather than anything relating to the biological nature of these limbs. I just don't know anymore, and at this stage, I am starting to wonder if I have given this question way too much thought, time and energy.

Can anyone help me out?

Very sorry if this question isn't appropriate here - if there is a better group for this question on Stack Exchange please let me know.

  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater that is specifically about human biology, and I want to know about squirrels/animals - humans have distinctly different arms and legs, however this is not the same with animals, so that question and it's answers won't help me here. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 14:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I disagree. That question is asking about the general case, and is referring to humans, cats and apes as examples. The answer is hardly ideal though, but that doesn't mean that it is a good idea to have overlapping and duplicate posts. Hopefully, somebody can add a better answer to the previous question, that answers both that question as well as yours. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 14:15
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ In scientific text the terms, "forelimbs/anterior limbs" and "hindlimbs/posterior limbs" are used instead of hands and legs. Hands and legs are quite anthropocentric terms. So, I would say that this question is more about language than biology. $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ in litterature and science they generally have limbs. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 4:57


Browse other questions tagged .