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The New York Times salutes squirrels

Basics - Nut? What Nut? The Squirrel Outwits to Survive - NYTimes.com
In the acuity of their visual system, the sensitivity and deftness with which they can manipulate objects, their sociability, chattiness and willingness to deceive, squirrels turn out to be surprisingly similar to primates. They nest communally as multigenerational, matrilineal clans, and at the end of a hard day’s forage, they greet each other with a mutual nuzzling of cheek and lip glands that looks decidedly like a kiss. Dr. Koprowski said that when he was growing up in Cleveland, squirrels were the only wild mammals to which he was exposed. “When I got to college, I thought I’d study polar bears or mountain lions,” he said. “Luckily I ended up doing my master’s and Ph.D. on squirrels instead.” The Eastern gray is one of about 278 squirrelly species alive today, a lineage that split off from other rodents about 40 million years ago and that includes chipmunks, marmots, woodchucks — a k a groundhogs — and prairie dogs. Squirrels are found on all continents save Antarctica and Australia, and in some of the harshest settings: the Himalayan marmot, found at up to 18,000 feet above sea level, is among the highest-living mammals of the world. A good part of a squirrel’s strength can be traced to its elaborately veined tail, which, among other things, serves as a thermoregulatory device, in winter helping to shunt warm blood toward the squirrel’s core and in summer to wick excess heat off into the air. Rodents like rats and mice are nocturnal and have poor vision, relying on whiskers to navigate their world. The gray squirrel is diurnal and has the keen eyesight to match. “Its primary visual cortex is huge,” said Jon H. Kaas, a comparative neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, A squirrel’s peripheral vision is as sharp as its focal eyesight, which means it can see what’s above and beside it without moving its head. While its color vision may only be so-so, akin to a person with red-green colorblindness who can tell green and red from other colors but not from each other, a squirrel has the benefit of natural sunglasses, pale yellow lenses that cut down on glare.

July 13, 2010

The Ten Worst Cities for Bedbugs

New York had has a rough time of it lately re: bedbugs. There have been reports of department stores, movie theaters and even a hospital afflicted with the little monsters. Insight Pharmaceuticals Cites Top 10 Bedbug-Infested Cities in North America | Earth Times News
Cities on this year’s list include: 1. Columbus, Ohio. Columbus has been fighting a major bedbug infestation for years, and enacted a bedbug oversight committee to marshal forces to fight this incipit outbreak. Recently, the State of Ohio asked the EPA to allow the use of Propoxur to help fight the problem. Its request was denied. 2. New York. The Big Apple’s war on bedbugs has been well documented. A group of concerned citizens started a NYC bedbug advisory board whose efforts recently ended in failure as government officials viewed the bedbug problem as having no fiscal impact. 3. Toronto, Canada. Toronto’s ongoing bedbug fight required the city to use bedbug sniffing dogs in advance of the recent G20 meeting. Toronto’s Etobicoke General Hospital was also recently found to be harboring the blood sucking pests. 4. Bloomington, Ind. So severe is Bloomington’s fight against bedbugs that the town recently invested $50,000 in bedbug eradication equipment that will fry the invaders with heat and help put a stop to the town’s “epidemic.” 5. Manchester, N.H. The city of Manchester formed a Bed Bug Action Committee to combat increasing incidences of bedbugs. 6. San Francisco. There have been 17 reports of bedbugs reported in San Francisco in the month of June. Note that not all bedbug cases are reported. . . .