Posted February 6, 2020
It’s squirrel appreciation day, and there aren’t many rodents out there as worthy of appreciation as these fluffy little guys.
Usually, we seem to think of the typical squirrel with brown or reddish-brown fur that chitters in your trees, buries nuts, and somehow finds its way into your attic. But squirrels are so much more than that!
The first ancestors of modern squirrels probably arrived on the North American continent around 36 million years ago. Scientists are speculating that squirrels reached other continents through land links between Asia and North America.
But did you know that there are now 200 different types of squirrels? Here are just a few of the coolest.
There are approximately 50 different species of flying squirrels throughout the world, and all of them have some pretty unique features.
Each of them has skin that stretches from their wrists to their feet, which allows them to glide when they spread out their limbs. They also have a short band of cartilage that extends from their arms during a glide.
Researchers have determined that flying squirrels can glide surprisingly long distances for such small creatures. They are also very agile in the air, capable of turning themselves completely around with their tails and by leaning from one direction to another.
During takeoff, flying squirrels leap from their perch and wiggle all four of their feet. They use their tails and limbs to change their trajectory.
This gliding ability allows squirrels to avoid predators, travel long distances quickly, and relocate to find better food sources.
They are extremely adorable in pictures and remarkable to watch in mid-glide, but they can also cause problems to homeowners if they find their way into the attic or another place in the house.
The African Pygmy squirrel is the smallest squirrel, between 4-6 inches long as an adult, including its tail, and less than one ounce. Even house mice are larger than that!
They have rounded ears like a mouse, and are considered to be more like mice than squirrels because of their mouselike body shape.
They typically live in tropical regions of Central Africa and are considered an uncommon species. They don’t usually like to socialize with other pygmy squirrels, but they can sometimes be found in pairs. Even though they aren’t social, they do make sounds, probably to warn each other of danger.
Unlike some squirrels, they don’t gather together to attack predators. They rely on their camouflage and acute senses to avoid predators like birds, snakes, and army ants.
These adorable little squirrels like to come out during the day and are in constant search of food.
These amazing squirrels hibernate underground for most of their lives. Most go to bed around August or September in their little ground holes lined with lichen or fur and don’t come out until early or late April.
Isn’t it amazing that they hibernate during most of their lives? They have the ability to change their body chemistry so that most of their bodies are below freezing, except for the brain, which is kept a little above freezing temperatures. Their breathing decreases to about one breath per minute!
When they’re awake, they spend most of their time foraging for food, looking for mates, and avoiding predators like birds of prey, bears, arctic foxes, and other arctic predators. They have unique calls to one another they use to warn of predators on the ground or on the air.
They are close relatives to marmots, so they have blunt snouts and round ears.