High Squirrel Intelligance Levels Discovered
In California, animal behaviour specialists have been looking into the tiny mind of the squirrel and finding out how big it is when it comes to finding their stores of nuts.
Every autumn a squirrel will hide around 10, 000 nuts. Their survival throughout the year will depend on their ability to find their hoard. This ability is dependent on their spatial memory and in that lies the key to their intelligence.
Dr Lucy Jacobs has been studying the capacity of the squirrel's brain, "The squirrel has an extraordinary spatial memory. It lives in this huge three dimensional world, jumps from tree to tree and in addition it has this amazing foraging behaviour that it buries 10,000 nuts in the fall and hides each nut in a separate place and then has to find each nut again."
This amazing memory may be nothing to do with intelligence. The key to recovering their hoard could be a simple ability to retrace their steps, like a tourist finding the way back to their hotel in an unfamiliar city. On the other hand, squirrels may be highly intelligent and find their way back to their food by building a three dimensional map of their neighbourhood in their minds. In this case, each nut would have a place on the map in relation to local landmarks, like trees and bushes, and the squirrel would be able to find the nut by any number of routes. This is what Dr Jacobs has been trying to find out.
You can't give a squirrel an IQ test, so how do you test its intelligence? When Dr Jacobs saw a BBC documentary featuring Grey Squirrels in a maze, it inspired her to devise a maze of her own to put her squirrels through their paces.
Dr Jacobs and her team train a squirrel on a specific route, up one ladder, left and up the third ladder on the right. At the end of this route there is a nut. The nut is always in the same position and over several days the squirrel learns how to find it. The squirrel only has to remember this one route, so even if it isn't very clever its basic spatial memory will enable them to find the nut every time.
The next stage of the test is to try out the extent of the squirrel's intelligence. The nut stays in the same place, but Dr Jacobs moves the maze, adding more ladders which give them alternative routes. If it has made a mental map of the area it will be able to find the nut by the position of the trees.
In tests, the squirrels have proved that they're not relying on retracing their steps. When the maze was changed they could estimate the position of the nut and go straight to it. Not bad for a creature with a brain the size of a brussel sprout!
In her research, Dr Jacobs has also discovered that somehow squirrels' brains increase each Autumn. All mammals use a part of the brain called the hippocampus to store memory. By examining cross sections of squirrel brains in the Autumn, when they hide their nuts, and again in the Spring, Dr Jacobs discovered that during the Autumn the squirrel's hippocampus is 15% bigger than it is during the rest of the year. So it seems that they can increase the part of their brain that stores their memory when they need it most.
A human brain stops growing once we've reached the age of sixteen, but Dr Jacobs believes that if we can understand what makes the squirrel's brain grow, one day we might be able to change the size of the human brain and boost our memories. Those Summer exams might no keep us out of the sunshine so much!
Taken from Tomorrow's World, BBC
BHI Correspondant Savaged!
On the 13th of January 1998 one of the BHI's most reliable and dedicated staff was ruthlessly attacked by one of The Evil Ones. Said correspondant was consuming his lunchtime repast when a squirrel approched him. Remembering his combat training, he then proceeded to offer the rodent some food, lulling it into a false sense of security. However, it was to no avail, as the squirrel saw through the usually effective bluff and lept at our intrepid man. The squirrel followed a classic attack, aiming for the main blood vessels of the wrist, in an attempt to dispose of it's target with speed. However, our correspondant preformed a spectacular defensive move and escaped with only major lacerations to his hand. He is now recovering in a secure ASC facility, where he comes to terms with the fact that he is now known to The Squirrels. We are confident that his unmasking by the enemy will not pose a great threat to his field capability, and he is hoping to be back on duty by March.
Initial Knowledge of the Conspiracy
The conspiracy was first discovered in late 1997, when suspicious squirrel activities in Europe were reported. Squirrels were found to be undermining governments, subverting national leaders, and eliminating anyone who stood in their way.
It was originally believed to only involve the squirrels, but a document leaked from the secret HQ (more on which later) referred to Stoats, Ferrets and Hamsters. The role of these other creatures is yet to be determined, but the possibility of a major military assault on the part of the ferrets and stoats cannot be eliminated.
The conspiracy headquaters is believed to be in the northern hemisphere. We have managed to deduce its location to one of the following:
Within time, the true location will be found.
However, the most worrying piece of information we have is the identity of the one behind the whole conspiracy. His picture can be found in the image archive.
Latest news: Over the last week, squirrels have been seen active around the author's locality. As they should be hibernating in these winter months, something suspicious is afoot. Investigation continues into the reasoning behind their early rising.