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Why can’t the red squirrel afford to carry a lot of body fat?

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by ForestWomble, Jun 30, 2017.


  1. ForestWomble

    ForestWomble PetForums VIP

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    Hello all.

    A cheeky request for help in finding some information.

    As some are aware I'm doing a course in british mammals, I have this question
    'Why can't the red squirrel afford to carry a lot of body fat?'
    I have done a lot of searching and can not find anything beyond the info that greys make more body fat then the reds.

    Cn anyone help me find this info? Thank you
     
  2. Satori

    Satori One of Life's Winners.

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    That has me stumped but some random thoughts.....

    We know the Red doesn't pack on as much weight as the Grey. One assumes that it cannot rather than chooses-not to because squirrels will overeat given the chance? The fact that it can't put on as much weight is likely to be an evolutionary response? So historically there must have been some survival / reproductive disadvantage to piling on too much weight through Autumn? Could it be that because Reds hunt for food primarily off the ground they need to be leaner or would the cause and effect be the other way around (they are lean because they are opportunistic feeders or vice versa)? Could they be prone to disease that is typically caused by excesses of visceral fat, like heart disease for example, causing an evolutionary response that diminishes their weight gain through an inability to digest very high energy foods?

    No idea really, just thinking out loud.
     
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  3. ameliajane

    ameliajane PetForums VIP

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    Maybe the Red Squirrels' diet of small conifer seeds would not support a larger body..??

    http://rsst.org.uk/about-us/red-and-grey-squirrels/

    So it seems if the Red Squirrel were to start to gain weight in the way the Grey does it would lose the advantage it currently has over the Grey in it's last stronghold of coniferous forests.
     
    #3 ameliajane, Jun 30, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
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  4. Siskin

    Siskin Look into my eyes....

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    Red squirrels being so light can get to the very ends of the conifer branches to escape their main predator, the pine Martin who is too heavy to manage that.

    Interestingly it has been discovered that grey squirrels don't do very well where there is a good population of pine martins as being heavy they can't escape to the ends of the branches like the reds. So pine martins are happily catching the grey squirrels and keeping the population down allowing the reds to thrive. They do it so well that there is a move to start introducing captive bred pine martins into forests where grey squirrels are causing a lot of damage which may have the benefit of being able to support red squirrels in the future.
     
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  5. ForestWomble

    ForestWomble PetForums VIP

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    Thank you. That makes a lot of sense, I was wondering if it was to do with survival so will look into that idea more.

    Thank you. That makes sense too.

    Thank you. That's very helpful.

    Again thank you all, you've really helped, I will do some more research tomorrow with your replies helping me out, but it seems that it's to do with survival, just being lighter so they can move around the trees better and get away from predators. :)
     
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  6. HarlequinCat

    HarlequinCat PetForums VIP

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    I was about to say the same as @Siskin :). Though they'll have to have a very good memory of where they cashe their food.

    When I first read the title of the thread I thought it was going to be the beginnings of a corny joke :p
     
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  7. Elles

    Elles PetForums VIP

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    There was research done on squirrels in various types of forestry. In some forests neither types store body fat, comparing may help your calculations if you can find the research. I think the research was American, but evenso its conclusions might be useful. Good luck. :)
     
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  8. ForestWomble

    ForestWomble PetForums VIP

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    Sorry to disappoint you :p

    Thank you. I'll see if I can find it.
     
  9. Catharinem

    Catharinem PetForums VIP

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    Because fat is low density, so a lot if fat is a large volume. Well fitting squirrel rucksacs have to be made to order, more material and stronger fastenings equals more expense.

    Most carry it under their hats, like Paddington's marmalade sandwiches :

    (modeled by a grey as reds try to avoid publicity):

    costume-squirrel-whisperer-sneezy-nary-krupa-37.jpg
     
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  10. ForestWomble

    ForestWomble PetForums VIP

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    I researched red squirrels and pine martins and found the info I needed :D

    Thank you Siskin that was a great help.

    @Satori you're idea was correct to, they need to be lighter in weight to get away from the pine martins, just as Siskin said in her answer.
     
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