Prehistoric Pests: Squirrels

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Squirrels can be quite a nuisance. They also can, in the right light, be...sort of cute. But have you ever wondered what squirrels were like millions of years ago? Were ancient squirrels hanging out in ancient attics and burying ancient nuts in pristine ancient lawns? Were they about the size of a forearm, but at least double that size in their level of annoyance (ok, triple)? We were curious too, so we did a little bit of research to figure out what the deal was with squirrels about 200 million years ago, and we found some things that piqued our interest, and also sort of freaked us out. 

 

The Saber-Toothed Squirrel

It’s a mouthful, but cronopio dentiacutus, more simply known as the saber-toothed squirrel, is something out of a deranged horror movie. This thing wasn’t giant by any means, measuring about 8-9 inches long--which is basically the size of a large squirrel. So what’s the big deal? It comes down to their chompers. These squirrels of old had long fangs that they used to hunt primarily insects, which is where the “saber-toothed” part of their name comes in. So about 220 million years ago, there was a long fanged big squirrel running around with the dinosaurs. That image has us thanking god for the modern squirrel. 

 

Giant Flying Squirrels

Giant flying squirrels actually still exist today--they mostly live in parts of Asia, and can get as large as 20 inches long. But back in 2018, scientists discovered an 11.6 million-year-old fossil that indicated giant flying squirrels haven’t just been around for millions of years, but at some point may have been even larger. When this fossil was found, researchers thought that it might have belonged to some sort of ancient primate; but nope, it actually belonged to a really big rodent, one Miopetaurista neogrivensis. The researchers involved were disappointed that it wasn’t a primate fossil, but frankly, we’re just happy that primate-sized squirrels aren’t hanging around New York. 

 

Bat-Squirrel Hybrids

The last prehistoric squirrel we found wasn’t so spooky as much as it was just kind of cool. Maiopatagium furculiferum was a sort of squirrel-bat fusion that existed around 160 million years ago. This thing was about 8-9 inches long (again, not massive) but had teeth that resemble those of the modern fruit-bat, which implies that they ate soft plants, not the hard nuts (or frankly anything else remotely edible) that squirrels we see nowadays constantly trying to get their grubby paws on. They also roosted the way that bats do, “using all four limbs to hang from trees and gripping tree branches with their feet like bats”, which, ok, that part is sort of creepy. These fellows were also gliders, not flyers, so they had a little something in common with both modern flying squirrels and modern bats. 

 

Back to modern-day squirrels…

So we found quite a few little interesting nuggets about prehistoric squirrels, but what about the ones that are chilling out in your attic, like, right now? At Thomas Pest Services, we have squirrel problems covered, whether they’re your regular old run-of-the-mill squirrel or one of the flying variety. We provide wildlife removal services that are built to be both humane and ongoing so that any squirrel issue you’re having doesn’t suddenly reappear right when you think you’re in the clear, squirrel-wise. Getting started on your new squirrel-free life is as simple as just getting in touch with us!


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