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Scientists explain strange 'splooting' behavior happening with squirrels across America: 'Beyond the typical ability'

It's not as cute as it looks.

Splooting behavior happening with squirrels across America

Photo Credit: iStock

Squirrels are known and adored for their nutty antics, and one that has recently gained attention is the way they "sploot."  

What is splooting? 

When you see an animal lying on its stomach with both legs kicked out behind them, this is called splooting. 

As reported by Texas Public Radio from an article in NPR, squirrels and other animals will often sploot to bring their body temperature down in extreme heat, something areas across the country have been experiencing more of lately. 

Sunny Corrao of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation explained it to NPR, saying, "They're trying to find a cool space, and if they can put as much of their core body onto a cool space, then the heat is going to transfer from their bodies to the other surface. So in the case of squirrels, you'll often see them maybe on a shady sidewalk, or a park path, or in the grass, just splayed out."

Why is splooting not as cute as it looks?

As the overheating of our planet makes extreme heat events more common, squirrels and other animals are struggling to stay cool. While humans sweat to cool down, many animals aren't able to, so they need different ways to do it. 

Cue the sploot. If extreme heat makes it hard for humans to cope, it's doing the same for animals. So, as cute as splooting may look, it can actually be a sign of an animal in distress.

As the planet continues to warm, it will become increasingly difficult for animals to stay cool. If we don't stop Earth's rising temperatures, animals won't only struggle to stay cool, either. They'll struggle to survive.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare reported that rising temperatures also affect vegetation, food sources, access to water, and much more, all leading to uninhabitable ecosystems. This could have dire effects ranging from forced migration to entire species' dying off. 

In the NPR article, Carlos Botero, an associate professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin, said, "The temperatures we're experiencing right now are a little bit beyond the typical ability of this animal to withstand."

While these heatwaves continue, more squirrels will certainly be spotted splooting, but it can only do so much to cool them down. The real solution is to stop our planet from overheating by reducing our use of dirty energies, like oil and gas, to keep it habitable for both humans and animals alike. 

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