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That's nuts! Study shows how squirrels leap and land without falling

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Squirrels are like human parkour athletes when it comes to jumping from one place to another at speed, a new study shows. Researchers in California filmed squirrel movements as the creatures worked their way around a homemade outdoor obstacle course. The adorable critters invent'parkour-like' maneuvers as they go to achieve particularly difficult landings, according to the findings. They can expertly reorient their bodies to push off vertical surfaces during tricky jumps between branches in the quest for nuts, the study shows. The athletic and dangerous art of parkour involves running, jumping, climbing and quadrupedalism (using all four limbs) while moving through various terrain.


Could red squirrels bring back LEPROSY? Medieval strain of the disease is found in creature's UK population

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Red squirrels in the UK carry strains of leprosy similar to those that have afflicted disability and disfigurement on humans for centuries, a study has shown. The project aimed to find out how the disease affects and is passed between the red squirrels and how conservationists can control its spread. But the experts have said the chances of catching the disease from a squirrel are extremely low and have urged people living close to the animals not to panic. Red squirrels in the UK carry strains of leprosy similar to those that have afflicted disability and disfigurement on humans for centuries, a study has shown. Leprosy was identified in red squirrels for the first time in Scotland in 2014, though it is thought to have been in the population for centuries.


Cute prairie dogs are serial killers savaging ground squirrels

New Scientist

It was thought to be just a small, furry grass-nibbler, but the white-tailed prairie dog has another life – as a serial killer. The rabbit-sized herbivore's relations with the ground squirrels that forage alongside it often explode into murderous attacks – with some prairie dogs biting squirrels to death on a regular basis. This is thought to be the first time that one mammalian herbivore has been seen routinely killing members of another herbivore species. What's more, those who kill go on to lead more successful lives than those who don't, so it may be an important behaviour shaping evolutionary "fitness". John Hoogland, a biologist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, had been studying white-tailed prairie dogs for four years before he saw one kill a Wyoming ground squirrel (Urocitellus elegans).


Which Are Smarter, Red Squirrels or Gray Squirrels? Science Weighs In

National Geographic

European red squirrels numbers have dwindled in recent years, thanks to invasive gray squirrels from North America.


Invasive grey squirrels carry a parasite that makes their native red cousins sluggish

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Invasive grey squirrels carry a parasite that makes their native red cousins sluggish and threatens to further reduce their numbers, a study has found. Scientists say that the parasite -- carried only by the greys -- causes red squirrels to forage for food less efficiently and makes competition from the greys harder to face. The problem is so severe that it could wipe out red squirrels entirely where they share woodlands with the intruders. Red squirrels normally carry only one type of parasitic worm, or'helminth', in their stomach and intestines -- those of the species Trypanoxyuris sciuri. This means that they are therefore sensitive to foreign parasites transmitted by other animals -- including those of the alien grey squirrel.