The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.
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New Yorkers were excited by squirrels sprawled in parks: what happens to animals

'20.08.2022'

Olga Derkach

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If you see a squirrel spread out on its stomach, don't worry, it's normal splooting, which is perfectly normal for it. Read more about this publication CNN.

The term "stretching" took the internet by storm shortly after the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation posted information about the squirrel behavior on Twitter.

“If you see a squirrel lying like this, don’t worry, everything is fine,” the department’s specialists wrote on Twitter, along with an image of the animal stretching its limbs. On hot days, squirrels keep themselves cool by stretching (stretching) on ​​cool surfaces to lower their body temperature. This is sometimes referred to as heat dumping."

Charlotte Devitz, a biologist and graduate student who studies the behavior of these rodents at the University of Minnesota, said she first noticed how proteins stretch when she studied them for her master's degree.

“At that time I was not familiar with this term. We just called this behavior flop,” she explained. - I thought it was very nice. I tried for a long time to find published articles about what this behavior was, but there was not much success.

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Devitz says stretching is more common among large, hairy species. This is consistent with the scientific explanation for why squirrels do this: according to the biologist, it helps them cope with the heat.

Devitz explained that a more scientific name for splooting is "heat shedding": "The squirrel makes maximum contact with the surface of its body with a cooler surface, often with concrete or pavement, which are in the shade."

“This summer we had a record heat wave, so this behavior was very, very noticeable,” she said.

According to the biologist, stretching is “a good way of thermoregulating,” especially because proteins do not lose much body heat through sweating. This behavior, says the biologist, “is observed in other mammals. It just became more visible, and many people worry when they see squirrels spread out on the stomach."

Stretching could be especially common in cities like New York, Devitz said, due to the way urban areas trap heat.

"It's possible that this type of behavior is more common in squirrels living in urban areas, simply because they need more refrigeration," she suggested. “With climate change, overall temperatures are rising. We are seeing more and more such bursts of heat, more droughts. Perhaps this behavior will become more and more noticeable and much more often necessary for squirrels.

Devitz notes that the cooling benefits of stretching are balanced by the possible risks that squirrels face from predators. Lying down "puts them in a somewhat vulnerable position," she said.

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