Fun on Friday
Part 2 of Squirrels, Acorns and Oaks
What is so fascinating about squirrels, acorns and oaks? A lot!
For example, researchers have found that all acorns contain tannins-chemicals found in some plants that taste bitter and are toxic to animals. Tannins help to protect the acorns from predators like squirrels, chipmunks, and blue jays to mention a few.
Do all acorns contain the same amount of tannins? No!
Scientists have also found that white oak acorns contain LESS tannins than red oak acorns.
If you were a squirrel, which acorn would you want to eat-a white oak acorn or a red oak acorn?
You are right! Squirrels will eat white oak acorns as soon as they find them.
They will bury or store red oak acorns to eat later during the winter when food may be scarce.
Squirrels don’t always remember every place where they stored acorns. They may miss spots during the winter. Red acorns take a summer, winter and a spring to mature. If a red acorn is buried and forgotten, it will remain dormant over the winter and as soon as spring arrives, it will sprout.
White oak acorns mature in 1 season. Why? If you were a white oak acorn, and you had LESS tannin to keep predators from eating you, you would want to mature as soon as possible. As a sprouting white oak, you are less likely to be eaten than a white oak acorn because predators find you even less desirable as a food.
Interesting stuff, right?!! Squirrels eat acorns, bury some and forget them, and trees get their acorns spread throughout the forest.
You can find out more about the work of Dr. Peter Smallwood and Dr. Michael Steele who are researching the connection between squirrel behavior and oak forest regeneration.
Here are some links to articles about their work where I found this information.
Have a great weekend. Don’t forget to spend some time outdoors!
All drawings are my originals. All photographs are courtesy of Pixabay.com