It’s been a scorcher of a summer in New York City, and the weather has affected more than just people.
On extremely hot days, squirrels in New York City parks have been seen splooting, or lying on their bellies with their limbs stretched out.
Photos of the squirrels in this unusual position have been shared online by those who have caught a glimpse of them. More than 40 thousand Instagram posts have the word “splooting” attached to them; these include pictures of squirrels, dogs, and even cats splooting. Animals can benefit from the activity, and it can be a useful way for them to beat the heat of the summer.
Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles Dan Blumstein says that many mammals have less fur on their bellies compared to the rest of their body, so on hot days the animals will lie flat on their stomach against cooler surfaces, like rocks or cooler ground, to shed some heat and keep cool.
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The NYC Parks Department took to Twitter to reassure the public that these behaviors are typical and even beneficial for mammals. “Don’t worry if you come across a squirrel sleeping like this; it’s perfectly healthy. Squirrels sploot to cool off on hot days “the government agency Tweeted.
This summer, Central Park, where it’s easy to see squirrels, has seen many more above-average temperatures than usual. On August 9, the temperature in the park was only a few degrees below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and for 11 of the first 12 days of August, it was warmer than normal.
According to Blumstein, the term “splooting” was first used to describe the position adopted by some corgis, in which they lay on their bellies with their hind legs stretched out in front of them. Although the professor explained to AccuWeather that he does refer to the squirrels’ method, he uses a different term.
Since the animals resembled bear or lion rugs (the kind with the head still attached), I always called this “doing the rug.” “I told AccuWeather,” Blumstein said.
According to PennLive, many other animals, including chipmunks, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, and many others, sploot or “do the rug” to keep cool. Wet and cooler weather is expected to cover much of the Northeast this week, making it difficult to spot these splooting mammals in New York City.
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