Dandy Designs
Squirrely Memory
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Now, where did I bury that nut?


Anyone who has put up a bird feeder has probably faced the challenge of keeping squirrels out of it. Squirrels can jump amazing heights or even hang upside down to raid a bird feeder. They seem to be very clever in finding ways around almost any defense you put up in order to get at the bird food. Maybe that’s because they forgot where they put the food they gathered.

In studying the way animal brains function researchers have found that the long-term and short-term memories of animals vary widely. Some birds seem to be able to find their way back to the same nesting site even though their migration patterns take them thousands of miles away in the winter. On the other hand, squirrels have a hard time remembering where they recently buried an acorn.

One study of squirrels indicated a 20% recollection ability when it comes to remembering where they stored their food. Squirrels will bury nuts in the ground to provide food for the winter months. About 80% of these food supplies are not used by the squirrels, so they typically bury much more food that they can possibly eat.

You might think that the squirrels are wasting energy, or wasting food that might be eaten by other animals. However, the squirrel’s bad memory is vital to the plants whose nuts the squirrels eat. If the squirrels remembered every nut, it might be an advantage to the squirrel. It might even improve his chances of survival during the winter. But the tree would have its reproductive capacity severely crippled. Squirrels are omnivorous enough to shift to another food source when they forget where they buried the nuts. The bad memory is vital for the plants whose seeds the squirrel eats to survive.

The fact that some animals have total recall and others have partial recall is no accident. In each case it is a Dandy Design feature which allows the world in which we live to function in a beautiful way.

“squirrel,” Wikipedia




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