Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

On this Mother's Day, 2007, I have been rereading an article that appeared in the Washington Post just about two years ago, regarding the interesting story of our DC area Black Squirrels.

In the article entitled An Exotic Evolution by David Fahrenthold, he talks about the squirrels having been 'imported' from Canada back during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. 18 of the little creatures were brought down from Ontario by the Smithsonian and released at the National Zoo. Reasons for this are not truly known, but it is speculated that they were brought to repopulate the area as most of the local residents had been decimated through hunting. In any event, in the ensuing century plus, the descendants of this little band of originals, 'probably because of a slight evolutionary advantage conveyed with a black coat', have spread out from their original DC home. They have even been spotted, since the early 1980s, in northern Virginia across the Potomac!

Fahrenthold goes on to say that 'scientists say it's a real-life example of natural selection at work. It shows the spread of a gene within a population'. Many scientists believe the reason that black squirrels are mulitplying is that in winter, their dark coats help them to retain heat from sunlight 'leaving them less desperate for warmth than their light-colored cousins'.

In any event, I have seen three different black squirrels in my new backyard since moving here to an area just outside the northeast border of the District! It is quite fun to watch them interacting with their 'light-colored cousins'. They occassionally get into scuffles with each other over dropped bird seed from the feeders, but in general, seem to be tolerated by the more common greys. This guy was caught resting in the yard just yesterday. I suppose he might show up in a drawing someday, but that is yet to be determined. In the meantime, I shall be content to observe and watch true evolution taking place at my back door!

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