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Researchers have previously snapped blurry photos of Borneo’s elusive “vampire squirrel,” but video footage published earlier this month gives the world its first clear glimpse at this unusual creature.
The footage does not, however, confirm local legends about this squirrel’s vampiric habits.
Locals have reported finding deer and chickens ripped open, sometimes with none of the flesh eaten and sometimes with only the heart and liver missing. They have attributed the savage attacks to the little squirrel—which is a subject of interest to scientists not because of its purported blood-thirst, but because of its particularly fluffy tail.
The Bornean tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis) has the fluffiest tail of all mammals, scientists reported last year.
Little is known about the squirrel, so it’s possible it drinks deer blood as locals say. But Andrew Marshall, a conservation biologist at the University of Michigan who is studying the squirrel, told Science Magazine, “I would be very surprised if it were true.”
It seems instead to prefer the nuts of the canarium tree. These nuts are so hard, researchers don’t know how the squirrel manages to chew them.
The video footage was obtained after researchers from the University of Michigan and Victoria University, in collaboration with Gunung Palung National Park Bureau, set up 35 motion-triggered video cameras throughout the park.
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