They’re experts at making split-second decisions as they tear through canopies and grab onto man-made obstacles — a skill that recently inspired scientists to learn more about how they do it.
A team of researchers from the University of California Berkley observed wild fox squirrels as they participated in a number of trials to test their balance, leaping, and landing strategies.
Their findings were published on August 5 in the journal Science.
Photography by Alexandra Rudge/Moment/Getty Images
Watch these squirrels decide how to navigate their leaps:
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As conditions changed, the squirrels had to adjust their launch and landing strategies to make sure they reached their target.
Video by Nate Hunt, UC Berkeley
Sometimes, if the squirrels felt they wouldn’t have enough momentum to make a jump, they’d choose to parkour off walls instead.
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Not only is it fascinating to break down their tactics, but the craftiness of these common mammals could even help inspire the next generation of agile robots, researchers say.
“If we try to understand how squirrels (leap), then we may discover general principles of high-performance locomotion in the canopy and other complex terrains that apply to the movements of other animals and robots.”