Squirrelly is as Squirrelly does
Last night I saw a bizzarre headline on Yahoo News (shocking, eh?):
Squirrels Use Snakeskins to Mask Scent from Predators
Immediately I pictured squirrels killing and skinning snakes and then wearing the skins on their bodies like so many rodentian Xipe Totecs, but it's not like that. Instead:
ground squirrels and rock squirrels chew up rattlesnake skin and smear it on their fur to mask their scent, a team at the reported.
"They're turning the tables on the snake," Donald Owings, a professor of psychology who helped lead the research, said in a statement.
This, however, led me to further questions, like (1) How does smelling like a snake deter snakes? Wouldn't it attract them?
And (2) why would a professor of psychology be studying ground squirrel behavior?Well (1) still has me stumped, but it turns out that (2) is a no-brainer. It's because ground squirrels are publishing gold! Owings has published over 30 papers on ground squirrel behavior. You can see for yourselves here.
If there is any justice in the world, the Swedes will create a Nobel for squirrelology and Owings will be the first recipient. He is the Milton Friedman of the California ground Squirrel.