Last week, I received a forwarded E-mail message from the main museum call center. Ms. Patrice Gitaitis wrote:
"I found your site 'Science Buzz' while searching for information regarding squirrels and their coloring. Your describer is incorrect in the Winter 2005-2006 [phenology] edition when stating that grey squirrels have white ears in winter only in areas where it snows. I am in deep South Georgia and watch the white-eared grey squirrels from my window every day! I will admit this is the first year I have noticed the white ears, but my computer is also in a different space so I can actually see them. This might be an interesting investigation to pursue."
So I wrote to Dick Oehlenschlager, our Biology Curator (and the "describer" mentioned above). Oehlenschlager's response?
"This is interesting, but I'm curious if the ears are truly white or pale yellowish buff colored. (Yellowish buff colored ears are found farther south than the fully white ones.) Also, one cannot rule out the transport and release of specimens from outside their normal areas of distribution, with their genetic traits persisting until their death, and with resulting progeny perhaps carrying on the trait."
Hey, buzzers! Are you seeing white-eared squirrels? And where do you live?
Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever posted anything on this site about rattlesnakes. So what happens but today I came across some more interesting information about rattlers and their encounters with squirrels. And believe it or not, it appears squirrels get the upper hand, or tail, in their confrontations with the snakes.
Californian squirrels have learned how to heat up their tails and shaking them
aggressively. This action freaks out the rattlers and puts them on the defensive. In a study published this week on Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, the report says that the rattlesnakes can sense infrared radiation coming from the squirrels’ tails, a signal that snakes interpret meaning that the squirrels could come and harass them.
Interestingly, adult squirrels are not prey for rattlesnakes. They have a protein in their blood that makes them immune to snake venom. But the snakes do like to go for the baby squirrels. But it appears that the adult squirrels have come up with this “hot-tail” defense to protect their young.
Researchers are still trying to figure out how the squirrels are able to heat their tails. But they’ve discounted it as a natural reaction, because the squirrels only do it when in the presence of rattlesnakes. One theory is that they might be able to shunt the flow of some of their body core blood to go to their tail.
Well, the end of the world has started again, and it's happening in Germany (big surprise there - any country that shows so much affection for the fifth horseman, Hasslehoff, has to be tempting the apocalypse).
It has been reported that a mad squirrel attacked and injured three people in the town of Passau in southern Germany. The creature first ran into a house and "leapt from behind on a 70-year-old woman," before latching onto her hand with its teeth. The horrified woman ran into the street, where she managed to shake the squirrel off. The squirrel then attacked a construction worker, biting him on the hand and arm before he could fight it off with a measuring pole. Its thirst for human blood not yet slaked, the tiny monster ran into a nearby garden, where it attacked a 72-year-old man. Though bitten on the hands, arms, and thigh, the pensioner still managed to then kill the squirrel with his own crutch. (A similar thing happened to me once, but the crutch only knocked me out).
As much as I would like to consider this an isolated incident, and just blame it on Germany, I'm afraid we could be in some serious trouble here:
The list goes on and on, my friends. But this has to be the scariest thing I've read in my life.
Lock your doors and protect your nuts.
It's Mad Max from here on out.