He’ll Be BAAACK. Probably for nuts   1 comment

The little California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) doesn’t have it easy. They live in a harsh environment of hot, dry summers and cold (sometimes dry) winters. They are prey for almost any carnivore from hawks to coyotes to loose cats. For hundreds of years Native Americans have trapped them by the thousands. They can’t even climb trees (not very well, at least). Everybody picks on them and they just have to take it. Or do they….

Scientists at the University of California, Davis have been studying the squirrel for many years and have discovered some very interesting things: Some adult squirrels have developed immunity to rattlesnake venom. Mother squirrels find and chew on shed rattlesnake skins, then lick the squirrel babies so snakes would be confused why a baby squirrel smells like a snake (to us, chewing on old snake skin says more about mother’s love than squirrel survival). Now, scientists have found when an adult Ground Squirrel is confronted by a rattlesnake, the squirrel stretches out its body, flicks its tail up and down, and actually sends more blood to the tail to make it warmer. Snakes sense much of their world through heat and motion, so a stretched out (big), tail-flicking (lots of movement), extra-warm squirrel might look to a snake like something too big and dangerous to attack (remember, these are the same snakes who are confused by squirrel pups that smell like snakes. Just keepin’ it simple).

And to test this ‘Big Dangerous Squirrel’ theory, scientists at UC Davis have invented….the RoboSquirrel! Easily assumed (by a snake) to be a common Ground Squirrel, but incorporating the latest in remote-control tail-flicking and optional heating technology! Now the researchers can determine when a snake is likely to attack, and what behaviors the squirrel can bring to its defense. So far the scientists have found that with a stationary and/or non-heated tail, many snakes attack much of the time. With a moving and/or heated tail, some snakes attack only some of the time. They didn’t install glowing red eyes which would probably result in no snake attacking none of the time.

But this is not the first robot animal UC Davis has created. They’ve also made the RoboLizard and the RoboSageGrouse (a type of wild chicken-like bird). And everyone knows who the former Governor of California was. Just makes you think.

robosquirrel UC Davis

We can make him faster, stronger, snake-proof! (May require AA batteries, available separately)

Thank you to Andy Fell, UC Davis for this behind-the-scene photo!

 

Posted April 19, 2012 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in ECOVIA Central

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One response to “He’ll Be BAAACK. Probably for nuts

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  1. Take that you snakes! Don’t mess with squirrels.

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