Sunday, September 28, 2008


In the food chain the predators are seen as the most victories when compared to the prey they consume. Most of the predators have more then one advantage over their prey whether its sheer strength or physical size. Due to nature, the bigger animals always pray on the smaller animals, if that were always true you would assume that all the preys would be extent. As most of us know, that is not the case. Almost all Preys have certain behavior or traits that would help them save themselves or their young ones form a predator. For example, the moths that we learned in our first week of Animal Behavior class, uses its auditory receptors witch transmits information to the neurons that control the wings. The auditory receptors help the moth detect high-intensity ultrasounds that is similar to its predator the Bat. Like the moths squirrels also has similar traits that help them escape form their many predators, one of them being their ability to climb trees. Unlike the moth the squirrel would also stand-up and fight some predators even when  they are twice its size like the Snakes. 

For a while we have known that squirrel unlike many other preys would if they have to will fight back to its predators. They use their characteristic traits such as their sharp teeth's to bite, its leg to kick sands, and its sharp claws to scratch sot to fight back. Animal Behaviorist Aaeon Rundus form University of California, Davis has found that the squirrel has a very unique way of using its tail to defend themselves from their most common predator the snakes. It seems that the squirrel are somehow able to change the temperature of its tail depending on the type of snake they are up against. When up against a rattlesnake the squirrel would heat up its tail so to confuse the snake's infrared heat sensors, making the snake assume that it's up against another predator. When up against a gopher snake the tails seems to have cooled because gopher snake has no inferred sensors. to understand this behavior better Rundus designed a robotic squirrel with a heat changing tail. Rundus found that when the tail is warm the rattlesnakes seem to feel threatened and so rather then try to eat the squirrel the snakes become rather defensive. In this way the squirrel has more time to get away or fight. 
Moths and Squirrel are just some of the many type of prey that has over time developed distinctive characteristic to help survive in this ruthless place we call earth.

By: Tenzing Y. Dundutsang


At 2:04 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I have a new respect for squirrels. How do they heat the tail up? It might be increased blood flow.

Jimmy Sullivan

At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting that a snake becomes defensive when the squirrel's tail is war. Could this have something to do with snakes being cold-blooded creatures?

-Sasha Rogers

At 2:19 PM, Blogger PWH said...

very interesting, so do they only heat up or cool their tail when up against snakes, or is usefull against other predators as well?

-Hessom Minaei

At 2:41 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Very interesting,
I am curious if the squirrels heat up or cool their tails when other predators are attacking them such as Hawks? Also just curious what is the variation of temperature ranges? Do they only change their tail temperature by 1 or 2 degrees or is the change more drastic?

-Joe Alonzo

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Due to nature, the bigger animals always pray on the smaller animals, if that were always true you would assume that all the preys would be extent. You mentioned that this is not the case. But I believe there is an error to this statement.

In africa, smaller predators (like cheetah) hunt a larger animals too.

Second, about the extinction of smaller creatures/preys,

Foxes hunt rabbits, thus numbers of rabbits decrease, which results in decreased amount of food sources for foxes. So numbers of preys decrease, and leads to increased in numbers of rabbits.

I believe that it is a common mistake that continuous consumption of small preys leads to extinction.

-Yi, Jeongsang

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never knew squirrels use their tail to their advantage. Does squirrels use the same defense mechanism against other predators?

- David Huynh

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had never heard of using temperature as a defense mechanism before, that is interesting. How do squirrels know what kind of snake they are facing? Does cooling the tail actually do anything or is it just heating it up that helps them?

-Julie Riley

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Amy said...

The squirrels with heat changing tails is really interesting. I'm not really sure what your connection was with the tail changing temperatures and the beavers. Are beavers' tails warmer than squirrel tails?

Amy Kawazoe

At 5:35 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This was an interesting article, but I'm curious about how exactly the squirrel goes about heating up it's tail. Is the heating due to an increase of adrenaline, is it an involuntary hormonal reaction, or is it completely under the control of the squirrel?

-Kiel Boutelle

At 5:37 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I always knew that squirrels used their tails for balance and communication with other squirrels, but I never thought they had the ability to change the temperature of their tails as to interact with other species. Do they use this mechanism for anything other than defending themselves?

-Helen Thi

At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting article. I am most curious to see what the squirrel is doing to heat up its tail. Also I am curious as to how they are able to tell different snakes apart. My only other comment has to do with proof-reading. I was a little confused with some of the blog on some basic things which would have been clearer with a quick proof-reading (the plural form of prey is prey). Still, a very interesting read.

Posted by Alex Jackson

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what the temperature of a gopher is in comparrison with a squirrel, and if the heated tail tricks the snake into making the snake think that the squirrel is its predator instead of its prey.

Ada Marie Flores

At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading this I have to wonder if the squirrels we see on a daily basis still have these abilities because I feel like one of the major threats against squirrels these days are not other animals but people, their cars, etc. How have squirrels adapted to living within areas populated with so many people?

-Alicia Stein

At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an amazingly developed mechanism in the squirrels' tail. There must be some other advantages to being able to change the temperature of such a useful appendix. Perhaps cooling the entire body at times of extreme heat.

Jordan Grinstein

At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting article, i wonder how the squirrel would react to a type of snake they never encountered before. I wonder if they would heat up their tail or not because it wouldn't know the way the snake sees.

Alex Pavidapha

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Jen Kodela said...

Great introduction, I liked how you put it in context of what we are covering in class. I was wondering if all squirrels do this and if it is just their tail that they can control the temperature of or do they have control over the rest of thier body as well?

-Jen Kodela

At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who knew squirrels were so tough! I am also interested in exactly how the tail heats up....Good work.

Ericka Adey

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article! I liked how you related your article to what we've studied in class. Do you know if the squirrel uses it against any other predators other than snakes? I enjoyed the video too, the snake was really bruised up by the squirrel.

- Tazneena Ishaque

At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the fact that you related the information you found in the article to what we learned in class. I never knew that squirrels could heat up their tails to use use it as a defense mechanism. I wonder what are the chemical aspects that enable the tail to increase its heat and is there any temperature change in the rest of the body?

- Debbie Theodat

At 11:54 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Do all squirrels have this ability or just the ones whose predators are snakes or with infrared detection and how was it created.

Charles Scondras

At 11:57 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Nice article! I never heard of this defense mechanism. Is this defense of heating and cooling the tail in all species of squirrel or is it just some squirrels? I would also like to know more about how the squirrels are able to heat up their tails. Very interesting article. Good work.

Carlos A. Varela

At 1:09 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Wow! I didn't know that squirrels could change the temperature in their tails, I wonder what physiological apparatus allows them to do this.

Jennifer Smith

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