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Animal Roundup

January 11, 2008

Squirrels foil their predators by making themselves smell less like squirrels and more like their predators.


A squirrel in snake’s clothing. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
Rattlesnakes are nearly blind and use scent to track down squirrels, their favorite food. Now scientists at the University of California at Davis have observed ground squirrels and rock squirrels taking bits of old rattlesnake skin, shed by the snake, chewing it up, and then licking their fur. The researchers suspect the squirrels make themselves smell like a snake to fool hungry rattlers.
In other animal research, scientists at Emory have looked into the practice of dolphin assisted therapy, in which children or adults with physical or mental disabilities swim with dolphins. The claim is that the experience has healing powers. But the researchers claim that over the past twenty years, there have no credible, controlled studies that show the therapy works any better than having the patients interact with puppies or other domestic animals. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.