View Full Version : Secret sex life of red squirrel uncovered by scientist

11-29-2008, 12:10 AM
Female of species surprisingly promiscuous, and she breaks all the taboos

Female red squirrels are giving rabbits a run for their money.

New research by former University of Alberta researcher Jeffrey Lane shows the species is among the most promiscuous of animals, mating with sometimes as many as eight or nine different male squirrels in one day.

"On a single day, if three males show up, she will mate with them," said Lane, who studied a free-ranging population of red squirrels near Kluane National Park, in southwest Yukon.

"If eight or nine show up, she'll mate with them too."

Lane, who earned his PhD at the University of Alberta before heading to the United Kingdom, didn't set out to document the animal's squirrelly sexual habits, but stumbled across them when he researching male reproductive success.

"A light went off and we realized, 'These females are just mating with a ton of males!' " Lane said.

He said the red squirrel's promiscuity is very rare compared to other species, whose excessive activity could come at a cost.

"In some bird species, if a male finds the female is stepping out on him, she may get kicked out of the territory, or he may stop providing care for his offspring," Lane said, noting that Australia's fairy wren is the least faithful among birds, while the loyal albatross is the most monogamous. "But in the red squirrel species, the female has her own home and the male has his own, so she's really independent."

Nothing is too taboo for the busy female red squirrel, who will even mate with relatives as close as brother and father.

Yet her inbred offspring are no different in birth or growth rate from other squirrels and fare just as well in the wild, Lane and his team discovered.

Lane, who continues to do field work in the Yukon, was most interested in how the squirrel's mating habits have evolved, but jokes it's also "one of those topics people are interested in because it has some social connotations."

"Plus it's kind of funny," he said.


11-29-2008, 01:44 PM
And now the world is a better place because we know all this.