“For every kind of thermal regulatory mechanism, there is a point at which it doesn’t work anymore, and that depends on environmental temperature. So it’s going to get harder and harder for squirrels to sploot effectively — for humans to sweat effectively — as temperatures rise,” animal physiologist Andrea Rummel said.
Recently, while strolling in my neighborhood on a hot summer evening, I came across something quite peculiar. Perched atop a wooden gate was a squirrel, lying flat, stretching its limbs out in all directions.
This caught my attention, as I’m accustomed to seeing squirrels scurrying about and playing, not lounging in such a manner.
I was unaware this behavior actually has a name that has gained popularity through internet memes — “splooting.” It refers to the act of animals spreading themselves across a surface as much as possible.
Using Splooting to Cope with Climate Change-Induced Heat
According to a fascinating article on NPR, animals such as squirrels have developed a unique behavior called “splooting” to cope with the rising temperatures caused by climate change.
Scientists have given this behavior the name “heat dumping.”
When animals sploot, it means they stretch out their bodies to come into contact with a cool surface, such as the ground or a shady area.
By doing so, they can release the excess heat that accumulates in their bodies. Splooting serves as a way for these animals to cool down when the weather is extremely hot.
While humans have the ability to sweat to regulate their body temperature, animals rely on alternative methods. Squirrels, for example, often engage in splooting by resting on pavement, rocks, tree limbs, soil, or even fire escapes to seek relief from the heat.
However, there are limitations to relying solely on splooting for cooling.
As the frequency of extreme heatwaves increases due to climate change, animals may encounter difficulties in keeping cool with this single method.
It becomes crucial for animals to have various strategies to stay cool because depending solely on splooting may no longer be sufficient.
In simple terms, splooting is a curious behavior where animals stretch out across a surface, and it helps them cool down, especially in the face of climate change and rising temperatures.
It’s an interesting adaptation that animals use, but it also reminds us of the difficulties they encounter due to the effects of our changing climate.
Have you ever seen a squirrel or any other animal sploot? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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