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Tassel Ears of the Forest
Abert's or Tassel-eared Squirrel (Sciurus aberti)
Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G. Marcot
No, it's not a pointy-eared
Vulcan from Star Trek. It's a Tassel-eared
Squirrel of Ponderosa
pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests of southwest U.S. and northern
Mexico. Also called Abert's
Squirrel, this beautiful animal usually inhabits the tree canopies,
consuming pine bark, seeds, flowers, and buds. But they also risk
ground-dwelling predators and dig in the forest floor for fungi.
Abert's Squirrels bury pine cones in the ground in a "cache" to which they may later return to reap the food rewards. This behavior may help to disperse Ponderosa pine trees throughout the forest, making conservation of this arboreal rodent a part of conserving productive forests.
This sleepy sciurid was captured and tagged as part of a research project in Ponderosa pine forests of northern Arizona. View a slide series of the capture.
Abert's squirrel was named after Col. J. J. Abert, a naturalist, military officer, and topographical engineer of the early 1800s.
Further information: Kotter, M. M., and R. C. Farentinos. 1984. Tassel-eared squirrels as spore dispersal agents of hypogeous mycorrhizal fungi. Journal of Mammology 65:684-687.
Next week's picture: Colorful Songs in Your Back Yard
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