Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Young Albino Squirrel

Posted by Kirk
This little guy was clearly born this year as you can tell by his sub-adult size. Eastern Gray Squirrels Sciurus carolinensis, take 8 to 9 months to reach full size. This one has a few siblings around at the feeders as well. We get albino squirrels showing up every few years so the gene must be passing around in our gray squirrel population at work. I shot a quick video with a small camera. Sorry, not the best quality as my good video camera wasn't on hand. It will be fun to watch it grow up. We do have owls around and, at least until the snow comes, this one will be an easy target. Albino squirrels certainly have an adaptive advantage in the winter given their white coats. It makes me wonder if white squirrels are more common at higher latitudes or altitudes given the positive evolutionary pressure brought on by increased chance of survival in winter. I couldn't find any research on this. I did discover that melanistic or black squirrels are more common as you move north.

This individual is a true albino and not a leucistic squirrel. This means that the pigment is missing from the eyes as well and I have read this could reduce the squirrels visual abilities in bright light. In winter, the reflected sun on the snow is very bright so that could negatively affect survival rates. Interesting any way you look at it.