The Olympics might be over, but that doesn’t mean that gymnastics have to take a backseat. For those in the Northern Hemisphere it is that time of year where the squirrels are 1) chonky and 2) scampering about to top up their cache for the winter – often making death defying leaps and bounds in the process. A cool research project set out to look at just how athletic squirrels are – and lets just say they could definitely make it to the national gymnastics team!
These gymnastic skills are important to help minimise what would be life (not career) ending injuries for squirrels as they navigate their way through the canopies. The cool part though? Its not just skill, there’s also some learning involved in making and surviving these acrobatic leaps. Squirrels learnt how to account for the ‘bendiness’ of branches when judging their leap – but also have the needed skills to correct should they have miscalculated before making the leap.
Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.