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'Vampire' Squirrel Has World's Fluffiest Tail
Science ^ | 30 June 2014 | Erik Stokstad

Posted on 07/07/2014 12:16:13 PM PDT by nickcarraway

Few scientists have ever seen the rare tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis), which hides in the hilly forests of Borneo, but it is an odd beast. It’s twice the size of most tree squirrels, and it reputedly has a taste for blood. Now, motion-controlled cameras have revealed another curious fact. The 35-centimeter-long rodent has the bushiest tail of any mammal compared with its body size.

"The species is really quite bizarre," says Erik Meijaard, a conservation scientist with People and Nature Consulting International in Jakarta.

Meijaard and his wife, Rona Dennis, an independent remote sensing scientist, gathered a collection of photos of Rheithrosciurus, including ones from colleagues. All were snapped by motion-activated cameras. Their 15-year-old daughter Emily Mae Meijaard, a student at the British International School, Jakarta, analyzed the pictures, measuring the size of the tail and body of various individuals.

Rheithrosciurus's plush tail is 30% larger than the volume of the squirrel's body, the family reports this month in Taprobanica. "This squirrel takes everything to the extreme," says Melissa Hawkins, a mammalogist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., who notes that the ears are particularly hairy as well. The closest contenders, whose tails are merely as bulky as their own bodies, include the common striped possum, which has a prehensile tail for climbing; the squirrel glider, which navigates with its tail as a rudder; and the ring-tailed cat, which uses its tail for balance during acrobatics in trees.

It's not clear why Rheithrosciurus needs so much tail, but Emily Mae and her co-authors believe the bobbing mass of fur might confuse clouded leopards and other predators, or prevent them from getting a good grasp when they strike. That idea sounds plausible to Hawkins, who says that when her field crew saw the squirrels in Borneo, they at first thought it was a much larger animal.

Local legends suggest that Rheithrosciurus, which is thought to mostly eat giant acorns, can be savage. Hunters say that the squirrels will perch on low branches, jump onto a deer, gash its jugular vein, and disembowel the carcass. "It sounds pretty fantastical," says a skeptical Roland Kays, a zoologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. "Even more than its fluffy tail."

Emily Mae, in any case, has switched her focus to photographs of something less gruesome: the mating behaviors of the argus pheasant.


TOPICS: Pets/Animals; Science
KEYWORDS: borneo; jakarta; squirrel; vampire

1 posted on 07/07/2014 12:16:13 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
It's not clear why Rheithrosciurus needs so much tail...

Naah, too easy.

2 posted on 07/07/2014 12:19:33 PM PDT by Charles Martel (Endeavor to persevere...)
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To: Charles Martel
Local legends suggest that Rheithrosciurus, which is thought to mostly eat giant acorns, can be savage.

You'd be savage if others of your kind went around eating giant nuts, too.

Quick, somebody post that picture of the squirrel with big ones.

Thank you.

3 posted on 07/07/2014 12:23:01 PM PDT by Quality_Not_Quantity (Liars use facts when the truth doesn't suit their purposes.)
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To: nickcarraway

“mily Mae and her co-authors believe the bobbing mass of fur might confuse clouded leopards and other predators, or prevent them from getting a good grasp when they strike”

Wouldn’t it make more sense if the tail was small so as to not attract the attention of predators?


4 posted on 07/07/2014 12:24:00 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Haven't you lost enough freedoms? Support an end to the WOD now.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

They need the tail to maintain balance.

.


5 posted on 07/07/2014 12:25:32 PM PDT by Mears
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To: Charles Martel

Vorpal squirrel!


6 posted on 07/07/2014 12:25:40 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Haven't you lost enough freedoms? Support an end to the WOD now.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

“Wouldn’t it make more sense if the tail was small so as to not attract the attention of predators?”

No, if a predator is going to attack, you would want the attack to be directed to the least vulnerable part of the body. And the way that the squirrel is built with all that fur on the tail, the predator probably won’t get as firm a grasp and thus allow the animal a chance to escape.


7 posted on 07/07/2014 12:30:56 PM PDT by Stormdog (A rifle transforms one from subject to Citizen)
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To: nickcarraway

RUST - Rodents of Unusually Sized Tails


8 posted on 07/07/2014 12:33:03 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy ("Harvey Dent, can we trust him?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBsdV--kLoQ)
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To: Quality_Not_Quantity

9 posted on 07/07/2014 12:33:24 PM PDT by EEGator
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To: nickcarraway

This is easy. The predator strikes at the tail, which allows the squirrel time to get away. My cat has a similar defensive mechanism, loose fur. I finally figured out why I sometimes collect enough fur in the vacuum to build a second cat. A predator lunges at her. She sprints away leaving a chaff fur image of herself behind. The predator strikes that and the cat is well and clear by the time it stops sneezing.


10 posted on 07/07/2014 12:35:16 PM PDT by Gen.Blather
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To: ClearCase_guy

I don’t think they exist...


11 posted on 07/07/2014 12:35:31 PM PDT by EEGator
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To: nickcarraway
Hunters say that the squirrels will perch on low branches, jump onto a deer, gash its jugular vein, and disembowel the carcass.

We may have finally identified Chupacabra.
12 posted on 07/07/2014 12:38:08 PM PDT by adorno (Y)
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To: Stormdog

But the tail can be so large as to attract more attention than is healthy.


13 posted on 07/07/2014 12:38:59 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Haven't you lost enough freedoms? Support an end to the WOD now.)
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To: nickcarraway

‘at’s no squirrel, mate!
‘at’s a rabbit taxi!

Its squirrel given a rabbit a ride to his next stop!


14 posted on 07/07/2014 12:39:44 PM PDT by G Larry (Which of Obama's policies do you think I'd support if he were white?)
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To: nickcarraway

15 posted on 07/07/2014 12:40:15 PM PDT by rjsimmon (The Tree of Liberty Thirsts)
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To: EEGator

That’s why they’re called ‘bushy tailed’, not ‘fluffy tailed’.


16 posted on 07/07/2014 12:54:33 PM PDT by shove_it (long ago Orwell and Rand warned us of Obama's America)
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To: nickcarraway

Good Lord. Is thhat experiment 524 or something?


17 posted on 07/07/2014 1:01:19 PM PDT by autumnraine
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To: nickcarraway

Nice hat...


18 posted on 07/07/2014 1:05:41 PM PDT by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously-you won't live through it anyway-Enjoy Yourself ala Louis Prima)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

“But the tail can be so large as to attract more attention than is healthy.”

Well, maybe it’s a trade off. At some point the squirrel’s going to get on somebody’s radar regardless.


19 posted on 07/07/2014 1:44:01 PM PDT by Stormdog (A rifle transforms one from subject to Citizen)
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To: EEGator

You mean the R.O.U.S.?


20 posted on 07/07/2014 1:52:41 PM PDT by Migraine (Diversity is great -- until it happens to YOU..)
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To: Migraine

Of the Fire Swamp...yes.


21 posted on 07/07/2014 1:56:13 PM PDT by EEGator
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To: rjsimmon

Dang it... beat me, I was trying to get an image to post lol.

SCRAT :-)


22 posted on 07/07/2014 2:11:35 PM PDT by Axenolith (Government blows, and that which governs least, blows least...)
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To: nickcarraway

Not quite what I’d hope to discover running around in an attic.


23 posted on 07/07/2014 2:49:37 PM PDT by OldNewYork
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To: nickcarraway

Premium Fly tying material.....


24 posted on 07/07/2014 4:14:24 PM PDT by S.O.S121.500 (Had ENOUGH Yet ? ........................ Enforce the Bill of Rights ......... It's the LAW !!!)
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