Monday, April 16, 2012

Some Squirrels Are Over 3 Feet Long

Malabar Giant Squirrel-Dogra
© Rakesh Kumar Dogra (via Wikimedia Commons)
Depending on where you live, you're probably familiar with fox squirrels, red squirrels and grey squirrels. The largest of these, the fox squirrel, is about 20 - 26 inches in length. That's pretty big for a rodent, but a species of squirrel that lives in the forests of India dwarfs the fox squirrel. In fact, the entire length of the fox squirrel is about the length of the Indian Giant Squirrel's tail.

The Indian Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica) has a 2-foot tail, with a body length of about 14 inches. While a fox squirrel weighs a pound or two, the average Indian Giant Squirrel weighs about two kilograms, or just shy of  four and a half pounds.

The size isn't the only impressive thing about this animal. They are an arboreal species (they live in trees), and  they rarely come down to the ground. They travel by jumping from tree to tree, and can jump as far as 20 feet!

Even though they might sound like scary mutant squirrels from a comic book or video game, these guys are less harmful than your average fox squirrel. They prefer to stay in the upper canopy, far away from people (so they won't invade your attic or destroy your bird feeders), and they eat fruit, insects, flowers, eggs, and will sometimes even snack on tree bark. Birds of prey and leopards are predators of this squirrel, and if the squirrel sees one, he will simply freeze or flatten himself against the tree trunk, presumably in the hopes of not being seen.

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