Dancing red squirrel, video


This 20 February 2019 video shows a dancing red squirrel in the Netherlands.

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American red squirrels’ food caches, new study


This September 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Red Squirrel Cache

One of the best things on campus happened today (well at least so far).

I was on my way back from dropping off my application to graduate and I passed by some bike racks. There was a squirrel on top of a bike, poking its head and pawing around a bag that was attached to a bike. Great, we have klepto-squirrels on campus.

But then the squirrel jumped off of the bike, down to the ground, picked up a pine cone, and then scampered back up to the bike and hid the pine cone inside the bag. This went on for about five minutes or so.

Whoever owns that bike is going to be very, very confused, and that silly squirrel is going to wonder where the hell all of his pine cones went.

From the University of Guelph in Canada:

In the squirrel world, prime real estate is determined by previous owner, study reveals

February 13, 2019

Summary: Researchers found that if a squirrel inherits territory from a male rather than a female, it will have about 1,300 more cones in its midden. This stored energy will keep the squirrel alive an extra 17 days. For females it means she will have enough food to breed earlier, resulting in her offspring leaving the nest earlier. This shows how the behavior of a complete stranger can impact the genetic contribution of another.

A young squirrel lucky enough to take over territory from an adult male squirrel is like a teenager falling into a big inheritance, according to a new University of Guelph study.

Researchers found male squirrels store more food than females, and if a young squirrel leaving the nest nabs a storage spot previously owned by a male squirrel, they will increase their lifetime pup production by 50 per cent.

“It’s like buying a home and finding a big pile of money buried in the walls,” said integrative biology professor Andrew McAdam, who worked on the study with lead author David Fisher, a former U of G post doc. “The previous owner of where you live can significantly impact how well off you are, at least in the squirrel world.”

Published in the journal Ecology Letters, the study involved hundreds of North American red squirrels.

It is part of the Kluane Red Squirrel Project, a long-term study in the Yukon investigating the ecology and evolution of red squirrels. Started by the University of Alberta in 1987, the project brings together scientists from several universities, including the University of Guelph, University of Michigan, and University of Saskatchewan to monitor behaviour and reproduction of hundreds of individually marked squirrels.

For this study, Fisher and colleagues measured the food stores and reproductive outcome of young squirrels that took over real estate previously owned by either males or females who disappeared.

Squirrels collect spruce cones in the fall and store them in the ground in a “midden” for winter. A hoard can contain more than 20,000 cones, and they can remain edible for several years, said Fisher.

“Good thing too, because spruce trees produce cones in boom-bust patterns. There are more bust than boom years, so if squirrels don’t store enough in the boom years they won’t have enough food to survive the bust years.”

It’s common for squirrels to take over the territories of other squirrels after they die and in taking over another squirrel’s territory, they also inherit their food stores, added Fisher.

“We have seen a food store last as long as 31 years — as long as we have been studying these squirrels — and owned by 13 different squirrels over that time period,” said McAdam.

In this study, researchers found that if a squirrel inherits its territory from a male rather than a female, it will have around 1,300 more cones on average in its midden. This stored energy will keep the squirrel alive for an extra 17 days.

The study also revealed that squirrels at their prime, which is three to four years old, have more cones than younger and older squirrels. This difference means squirrels that inherit their territory from a squirrel that died in mid-age inherit a larger cone store than those that inherit from a young or old squirrel.

“If a female squirrel is lucky enough to take over this prime real estate, then she will have lots of food, which allows her to breed earlier,” said McAdam. “This means her offspring will leave the nest early and they will have improved survival rates. Essentially, it will improve this squirrel’s genetic contribution to the next generation.”

These finding show how the behavior of one squirrel can impact the genetic contribution to the population of another squirrel they have never met, said Fisher.

“Ultimately, the food hoarding behaviour of a squirrel you have never met, and that may have even died before you were born, can impact your chances of survival.”

Fluorescent pink flying squirrels in North America


This 4 February 2019 video from the USA is called PINK SQUIRRELS?!

From Texas A&M AgriLife Communications in the USA:

Think pink: Fluorescent pink flying squirrel in UV light at night

February 5, 2019

The North American flying squirrel fluoresces pink at night under ultraviolet light, but the purpose of the pink color is still a mystery to researchers.

Allison Kohler, a graduate student in the Texas A&M University wildlife and fisheries department in College Station, helped make this discovery as well as affirm other flying squirrels do in fact fluoresce pink.

Kohler’s undergraduate professor Dr. Jon Martin, associate professor of forestry at Northland College in Wisconsin, was doing an exploratory forest survey with an ultraviolet flashlight in his backyard. Initially, he was looking at different lichens, mosses and plants to see what fluoresced. By chance, a flying squirrel happened to be at his bird feeder. When he saw it under the ultraviolet light, it was hot pink.

A team to investigate this discovery was formed and included Martin, Kohler and two of Martin’s colleagues at Northland College: Dr. Paula Anich, associate professor of natural resources, and Dr. Erik Olson, assistant professor of natural resources.

With access to a museum collection at the Minnesota Science Museum, Martin asked Kohler to take the lead on the project and develop a protocol to help further investigate exactly what it was they had found.

“I looked at a ton of different specimens that they had there,” Kohler said. “They were stuffed flying squirrels that they had collected over time, and every single one that I saw fluoresced hot pink in some intensity or another.”

In order to expand the search, the team went to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and gathered more specimens. In all, they researched over 100 specimens ranging across numerous states, all confirming their “pink theory”. They also looked at five additional live specimens.

“We tested all three of the North American flying squirrel species: the Northern flying squirrel, the Southern flying squirrel and the Humboldt’s flying squirrel, and all three of them fluoresced,” she said.

After comparing the flying species to other squirrels, like the American red squirrel and gray squirrel, the team found that the pink color is unique to the flying squirrel.

The reasons for the squirrels to fluoresce pink is still under investigation, but communication and camouflage are two top contenders for why this might be happening, the team has hypothesized.

“They could be communicating with members of their own species by showing off their fluorescence to each other, or it might be a sort of mating display,” Kohler said. “The other hypothesis is that they could be using this fluorescence as an anti-predator trait to communicate with other species, avoiding predation by other species by blending in or dealing with their potentially ultraviolet-saturated environments.”

As the research develops, she said, the importance of this find will present itself more clearly. Kohler plans to continue her research while pursuing her master’s degree at Texas A&M. Further research will look firmly at the implications of the team’s find.

“It could potentially help with the conservation of the species or other species, and it could also relate to wildlife management,” Kohler said. “The more that we know about the species, the more we can understand it and help it. This is opening a new door to the realm of nocturnal-crepuscular, or active during twilight, communication in animals.”