Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Squirrel vs. Gravity and Safflower

Q: How long can a squirrel hang upside down without righting itself?
A: At least eleven minutes if an uncontested food source is involved.

I know because I timed it, and it would have been longer if another squirrel hadn't chased the first one away. I had cleaned up an old tube-shaped bird feeder that hangs from an arm on a pole in my garden and that I know is not squirrel proof. I refilled it with safflower seeds because the package said squirrels don't like them and finches do. Without dwelling on that bit of false advertising, I find it hugely surprising that a squirrel can hang upside down from a bar for eleven minutes eating ANYthing.

This squirrel's hind feet held tight to the bar while its body stretched long and thin and straight downward. I had an urge to tickle its pure white soft-looking belly. Its head and front feet snatched the seeds from the bottom of the feeder, barely within reach. Its tail flopped loosely around, I assume assisting with balance.

The whole spectacle seemed counter to everything I know about gravity. Wouldn't the pressure of blood draining into the squirrel's head cause it to turn upright once in a while? Wouldn't the downward force of gravity prevent the chewed and swallowed seeds from moving upward through a wrong-turned outstretched esophagus? How long could it have continued its upside down quest if it hadn't been chased away? These are questions whose answers can not be found on the internet. Still, I'm curious. dkm

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