Squirrels are adopting the behavior of “splooting” to cope with rising temperatures, linked to climate change.
Observable behaviors: Splooting involves animals finding cool surfaces and lying on their stomachs with legs spread to cool off.
* Sunny Corrao of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation describes it as transferring heat away from the animal’s body onto a cooler surface.
The bigger picture: This response to heat is growing more common with climate change causing more extreme heat events.
* Methods of cooling off differ among animal species; dogs pant, birds dunk themselves in water and squirrels now sploot.
* Splooting squirrels appearing across social media indicate that they’re experiencing higher temperatures than normal.
Expert insights: Climate change is pushing temperatures beyond squirrels’ typical ability to withstand, says Carlos Botero, an associate professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin.
* The recent heat index in Austin achieved record-breaking values, reaching up to 118 degrees.
Looking ahead: As long as extreme heat persists, more splooting behavior can be expected from squirrels, though its effectiveness may decrease if temperatures soar further.
* Andrea Rummel, an incoming assistant professor of biosciences at Rice University, points out like human sweating, squirrel splooting too has a limit to its effectiveness in cooling off before it doesn’t work anymore.
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