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Why Do Squirrels Bury Nuts?


Larry

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OK, this is NOT a serious thread.  But it is something I've wondered about for some time. 

 

Mom really enjoys seeing squirrels, now days, so I make a point of pointing them out to here, every time I take her out.  And there's almost always several of them, all over the place. 

 

Therefore, I see a lot of squirrels burying nuts. 

 

And my initial reaction is "There's no way that squirrel is going to remember where that nut is, 10 minutes from now." 

 

So, why does he do it? 

 

I figure there has to be some reason why they do it.  Some evolutionary reason that increases their chance of survival. 

 

I could see them burying nuts, if they could remember where they put them.  Does anybody seriously want to try to assert that squirrels are smart enough to remember where they buried their nuts?  Seriously?  Squirrels? 

 

I could see it, if there's some way that the squirrel could find the nut, after burying it.  If he could smell the nut, through an inch of dirt, or something.  Except that I assume that, if Rockey the squirrel can smell that nut through the dirt, then so can the other 47 squirrels in my yard.  So, burying it really didn't keep it away from them. 

 

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And I figure that, after last night's game, something completely trivial might be therapeutic. 

 

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Its actually a symbiotic relationship with the tree.  The tree has evolved to drop its nuts, i.e. seeds, in close as time to each other as possible.  This allows the squirrel to bury a large amount of times at one time, thus giving him food for the winter.

 

However, the squirrel is not super smart squirrel and forgets where he has buried some of his nuts.  By forgetting, he has actually just planted a tree for the tree, thus ensuring reproduction.

 

Symbiosis.  Look it up.

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It's survival of the fittest.  They're hiding them for future generations when the nut availability diminishes.  They are getting ready for when everything is going down hill and that way they'll be the last surviving.  Instead of Planet of the Apes, it will be Planet of the Squirrels.

 

In all seriousness though, I have no idea.

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Its actually a symbiotic relationship with the tree.  The tree has evolved to drop its nuts, i.e. seeds, in close as time to each other as possible.  This allows the squirrel to bury a large amount of times at one time, thus giving him food for the winter.

 

However, the squirrel is not super smart squirrel and forgets where he has buried some of his nuts.  By forgetting, he has actually just planted a tree for the tree, thus ensuring reproduction.

 

Symbiosis.  Look it up.

 

Now, I did have a similar thought, regarding edible plants. 

 

It occurred to me that, when I'm eating a tomato or an orange or a strawberry, that some plant put a lot of work into creating this thing.  To concentrating sugars, (analogy, spending a whole lot of it's money) on creating this thing.  And then it colors it in bright colors, to make it easy for things like me to find it.  And then I eat it. 

 

What's the plant get out of it?  The few tomatoes/strawberrys/whatevers that don't get eaten might grow more plants.  But even then, why make the things so attractive to eat? 

 

Why bright colors, if nothing else? 

 

And it occurred to me that, well, if the plant had seeds that were designed to pass through an animal's digestive tract, . . . .

 

Then it's to the plant's advantage for the fruits of it's photosynthetic labors to get eaten.  Now, when it gets eaten, the plant's seed gets transported a great distance from the plant, and then deposited on the ground, in a large quantity of plant fertilizer which the animal contributed to the equation. 

 

(But, I don't think most edible plants work that way.) 

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I could see them burying nuts, if they could remember where they put them.  Does anybody seriously want to try to assert that squirrels are smart enough to remember where they buried their nuts?  Seriously?  Squirrels? 

 

I could see it, if there's some way that the squirrel could find the nut, after burying it.  If he could smell the nut, through an inch of dirt, or something.  Except that I assume that, if Rockey the squirrel can smell that nut through the dirt, then so can the other 47 squirrels in my yard.  So, burying it really didn't keep it away from them. 

 

----------

 

And I figure that, after last night's game, something completely trivial might be therapeutic. 

 

IANAB but squirrels might be smarter than you think.  They are mammals after all, I don't see any reason why their intelligence would be that much worse than say, a cat or a small dog.   Both of which have decent memory.

 

As for the every other squirrel smelling the nuts problem, this won't prevent other squirrels from raiding the hoard, but it might keep them away from other species such as birds.

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Ok, just talked to a biologist .. she suspects squirrels do have a superior sense of smell compared to humans at least, because other rodents like mice and rats do as well ...

 

So storage for the winter + hiding the food source from other species at least, perhaps if not other squirrels would definitely a confer a survival advantage to the squirrel.  

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Well, I certainly assume they have a better sense of smell than humans.  I think that almost everything does. 

 

And I assume it's better than birds.  My brother tells me that a Park Ranger once told him that the vulture is pretty much the only bird that even has a sense of smell.  Which, after I think about it, kinda makes sense, since I guess a sense of smell only helps a bird, if the bird's food isn't moving, and stinks to high heaven. 

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Which, after I think about it, kinda makes sense, since I guess a sense of smell only helps a bird, if the bird's food isn't moving, and stinks to high heaven.

Hubby's got an article about how birds bury worms, and can go back & find the one they buried first, so as to use them in order of catch & "freshness". Thought that was cool. I know he's got one about squirrels, so I'm gonna say either NatGeo or Scientific American? Or Fortean Times, some of those articles sneak right up on ya. I swear it's around here somewhere...
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come to think of it I have never seen a squirrel burying nuts,hiding other places yes.......and I've got plenty of squirrels and nuts

 

is that a Northern thing?

Perhaps the ground here is too moist

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Now, I did have a similar thought, regarding edible plants. 

 

It occurred to me that, when I'm eating a tomato or an orange or a strawberry, that some plant put a lot of work into creating this thing.  To concentrating sugars, (analogy, spending a whole lot of it's money) on creating this thing.  And then it colors it in bright colors, to make it easy for things like me to find it.  And then I eat it. 

 

What's the plant get out of it?  The few tomatoes/strawberrys/whatevers that don't get eaten might grow more plants.  But even then, why make the things so attractive to eat? 

 

Why bright colors, if nothing else? 

 

And it occurred to me that, well, if the plant had seeds that were designed to pass through an animal's digestive tract, . . . .

 

Then it's to the plant's advantage for the fruits of it's photosynthetic labors to get eaten.  Now, when it gets eaten, the plant's seed gets transported a great distance from the plant, and then deposited on the ground, in a large quantity of plant fertilizer which the animal contributed to the equation. 

 

(But, I don't think most edible plants work that way.) 

Actually, that's pretty much the whole point behind plants with edible fruit.  (Originally.)

 

Now, granted, domestication has turned marginally edible fruits into huge, juicy, flavor bonanzas and then we crap all those seeds uselessly down the drain.  The tomatoes and such you buy at the supermarket are no longer actually relying on ingestion by animals to spread their seeds.  That was the original "idea" though, to the extent that natural selection has ideas.

 

There are still wild varieties of things like strawberries and grapes and tree fruits.  Animals do eat them and poop them out.

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Watch squirrels closely because they pretend to bury nuts or quickly dig up a re-bury them elsewhere. They do this because squirrels are shameless thieves that spy on each other and steal hidden snacks. Also I'm pretty sure squirrels do something to the nuts they bury so they won't germinate.

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Squirrels must be able to smell the nuts or something.  I planted a small butternut tree in the back yard, and a week later, I saw a squirrel digging the thing up to get to what was left of the nut. 

 

If only it had realized, if it just waited 10 years, that tree will produce all the nuts he would ever want.  I suppose we humans aren't the only ones with "immediate gratification" issues.

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The nut burying depends on what type of squirrles you have, but for those that do TSF essentially nailed it.

 

http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/squirrel-hoarding/

 

In terms of many plants, the seeds are/were designed to go through degestive systems, but as also pointed out the fruit isn't what you see today.

 

Wild strawberries aren't bigger than the part of my pinky covered with nail and they aren't that sweet.

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Presumably they bury their nuts so that their fraternity brothers don't put Icy Hot on them and hit them with towels with knots in them.

 

 

what others choose to do behind the doors of their frat house is best left buried with the other nuts.

 

we do have mainly red squirrels here now that I think about it

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Most of the basics are already covered here, the breadth and depth of the knowledge buried on this board is scary. One nuance not discussed so far is the squirrels desire to hide his nuts from other squirrels. His nuts are his and he'd rather lose them than share them. Squirrels are the hoarders of the animal world. Thankfully, for all, they don't like cats.

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