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Thursday, August 16, 2007

 

California Squirrels Heat Tails for Defense

‘California ground squirrels have learned to intimidate rattlesnakes by heating their tails and shaking them aggressively.

Because the snakes, which are ambush hunters, can sense infrared radiation from heat, the warming makes the tails more conspicuous to them _ signaling that they have been discovered and that the squirrels may come and harass them, explained Aaron Rundus, lead author of a study in this week’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The tail “flagging” places the snakes on the defensive, he said.

Adult squirrels are not the snakes’ prey, Rundus said in a telephone interview. The adults have a protein in their blood that allows them to survive the snake venom, and they have been known to attack and injure snakes, biting and kicking gravel at them.’




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