Even squirrels are ditching the nuclear family - Macleans.ca

Even squirrels are ditching the nuclear family

Study finds squirrels can adopt orphaned relative


Squirrels may be intensely territorial loners, but they appear to have a soft spot for orphaned relatives. According to new research out of the University of Guelph, squirrels are a rarity among animals considered asocial in that they are sometimes willing to adopt family members who’ve lost their mother. Adoptions are rare—the research team found only five cases over two decades—but can happen under specific circumstances, namely when the adoption doesn’t threaten the survival of immediate relatives. “What we found,” says researcher Andrew McAdam, “was that squirrels will only adopt an orphaned pup when the costs of adoption are low and when the orphans carry a large percentage of the same genes such as siblings, nieces or nephews rather than more distant relatives.”

Eureka Alert

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