Thursday, October 16, 2008

Black Squirels

If you have been around campus, then you have probably seen a black squirrel. Among the squirrel populations, these black squirrels act just like the common gray squirrels, are treated just like the grey squirrels, and live with the grey squirrels. So, the question is what made these squirrels black?

Scientist believe “their dark, almost silky color stems from a genetic variation called melanism, a condition caused by an abundance of black pigmentation, melanin, in the skin, feathers or hair of an animal.”

Black squirrels can usually be found in urban areas because there are fewer predators, and they can blend in with the black “asphalt and utility lines.” So, if you live in the city, then you have probably seen a black squirrel, or you will see one.

Posted by: Sasha Rogers (5)


The black squirrels survive better in urban environments than in other environments. This is because their black fur, making them less visible to predators, blends in more with the black tar, pole lines, etc. found in the city than with the green grass, etc. found in places with less buildings and more nature. Other than fur color, the black squirrel has no major differences from the grey squirrel. The black squirrel is a still a squirrel, and so it will mate with another black squirrel or with a grey squirrel, it will live with other squirrels and behave just like other squirrels. However, one thing I have noticed based on observation, a black squirrel is usually seen around more black squirrels. I have not seen just one black squirrel among many grey squirrels. I have seen one black squirrel on one side of a path alone, while the grey squirrels were gathered on the other side, which was closer to their home. I haven't seen or read about too much interaction between a grey squirrel and a black squirrel, which leads me to believe that black squirrels are treated differently than grey squirrels in the squirrel population, but all the squirrels behave the same.

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At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool. So do you think this used to be a rare thing to see, like it is to see a completely white pigeon? I wonder if it is something that has occurred in nature for a long time, you know a genetic mutation here and there to produce it, and they were just picked off by a predator in the forest, since it is easier to see them. But then a couple generations later, or maybe even one, another one comes about, but this one finds it way into an urban area where it can blend, and therefore has a greater chance of surviving. A greater chance of surviving equals a greater chance of reproducing which equals a greater chance of that mutated gene to get passed on which equals a greater chance of more black squirrels running around. Hmm.

Katie Cole

At 5:33 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I am so glad someone wrote about this! I have always wondered about the black squirrels. I actually spent my summer in New York and I didn't see many black squirrels, I see them more here on campus. But, the first time I had ever seen a black squirrel it was in a city area. The only thing that I find odd is that you said the fact that they are black helps them be less visible to predators, but if this is the case then doesn't that mean they would survive better than the gray squirrel? And if they had a better survival rate wouldn't there be more black squirrels than gray ones?
Chantal Gomes

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive lived around Northampton, which has a fair amount of black squirrels as well, so i wasnt surprised to see them on campus but i was surprised that other people hadnt seen them before. i never thought about how they survive better in urban enviornments where they blend in, very interesting.

Erica Damon

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article,are there any other physical differences between black squireels and grey? Are their weights similar, and their behavior? Is color the only difference?

Mia DiFabbio

At 7:11 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7:14 PM, Blogger PWH said...

The only place I have ever seen a black squirrel has been here on campus. Is the black fur a recessive trait or do the black ones just get picked off by predators more easily when they are young? It is odd that the black pigment is a disadvantage in the wild, I would have thought it would be beneficial.

Rob Lubenow

At 8:59 PM, Blogger PWH said...

so do these squuirels behave differently? for example when they face a predator. do they have an advantage/disadvantage when it comes to mating?
good post!

-Hessom Mianaei

At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering if these black squirrels face any social differences when interacting with the gray squirrels. Would the gray squirrels treat them any differently or the same as if they were like any other gray squirrels?

- David Huynh

At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

O wow that is actually pretty cool. I never thought about this but I believe the first time I ever saw a black squirrels was in this campus. I live in an urban place myself yet I have never seen one. But I guess it makes sense in the rural place a black squirrel would be too noticeable. I was just wondering so these black squirrel were same species as the gray squirrels and is so will they mate with the gray squirrels or with another black squirrel. I would really love to know thanks for the interesting article.

-Tenzing Y. Dundutsang


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