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!
Acrobatic squirrels learn to leap and land on tree branches without falling
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.
The results are in for round 1. We had two major upsets, with the 14th seeded Solenodon outwitting the 4th seeded Malagasy Striped Civet in the ‘Tricksy Taxonomy‘ group, and the Crypt-keeper wasp (15th seed) outlasting the Masrasector nanubis (2nd seed) in the ‘Of Myths and Monsters‘ group. Yet the most shocking result comes from the ‘Red, in Fur‘ group.
In a gut-wrenching series of events the Red Hartebeest absolutely flattened the woefully out contested and outsized Red Squirrel. Turning this game from one of winner-takes-it-all to a game of whack-a-squirrel. We’re hoping the head of mammal safety will be looking into these events and that the appropriate actions are taken…
For a full play by play of the round 1 action check out the summaries (and associated links) see here.
Not sure what MMM is and want to join in and the madness? Have a look at http://mammalssuck.blogspot.com
Look to the wilderness of Northern Europe and you will find brown bears, grey wolves, wild cats, and some of the best remaining strongholds for large mammals on the continent. Look to the UK on the other hand, and you see a state of overgrazed grasslands, skeletonized hedgerows, and monocultured forests. In the face of the global extinction and climate crisis, even the most praised of Britain’s mammals are facing decline, as the IUCN red list declares one in four species at risk of extinction, and the persecution of wild populations continues.
In this article, I offer a brief summary of some of the UK mammal species that have experienced their share of ups and downs throughout 2020, and hopes for UK mammal conservation for the future.