Black Squirrel Feeding in the Dead of Day

DSC_0787

Did you know…black squirrels are really just grey squirrels, except they have darker fur?  It’s true.

Black squirrels are what we in the scientific field call a color morph.  To be really technical, they are the melanistic phase of the grey squirrel, which means that they have an extra dose of melanin in their make up.  It’s essentially the opposite of albinism: albinos have a lack of melanin, which is why they are “colorless.”  Melanistic squirrels are considered to be a case of “adaptive melanism,” which means that the ones who were darker were better able to survive (probably because they were more difficult for predators to see), and therefore passed their genes on to their offspring, thus creating whole populations of black squirrels.

Now, there are white grey squirrels, too.  Olney, IL is famous for it’s white squirrels – they are even featured on the patches worn by the police department!  Several other cities also have white squirrels, but Olney is considered the “White Squirrel Capital of the World.”  These squirrels are leucistic, which means they have no pigments at all in their skin (not just a lack of melanin).

Anyway, a black squirrel has been showing up at our birdfeeders off and on for the last couple of weeks.  He (she?) stands out because mostly we have fox squirrels, red squirrels and chipmunks at the feeders.   Grey squirrels, regardless of color, are not seen all that often, even though they are around.  We also have flying squirrels, but they are nocturnal and while it seems like some of us live here at the Dahlem Center, we do in fact go home at night, so we don’t see our night-time visitors.

Advertisements

About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Black Squirrel Feeding in the Dead of Day

  1. Bill Sonnett says:

    There are also various color morphs of Fox Squirrels in Jackson. I often see what best is decribed as “Blonde” Fox Squirrels which are a palomino color over their entire body. A more rare squirrel is the melanistic Fox Squirrel which is black like the far more common black Grey Squirrel. I have seen only two of these in Jackson in the past 20 years and both were dead specimens that could be closely examined as to species.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s