Genetics news & views from students enrolled in BIOL 2110 at Stockton University.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Squirrels Spread by Humans
People have played a bigger role in the spread of grey squirrels in the United Kingdoms than grey squirrels themselves did. DNA profiling has revealed that different squirrel populations in the UK are genetically distinct, or are more closely related to squirrel populations some distance away than to populations close by. Instead of the squirrels expanding into new habitats themselves, humans have been responsible for their movements, sometimes intentionally and sometimes accidentally.
These findings could mean hope for the native red squirrel, which is outcompeted by the grey squirrels in many places. If the spread of squirrels by humans can be stopped, red squirrels in places with no grey squirrel populations may have a chance at surviving. Can all transport of squirrels by humans actually be stopped? Probably not, because even if all the people actively transporting squirrels (out of good intentions or as pets) were somehow stopped, accidental squirrel transport (in cars, for example) cannot really be controlled. However, just slowing the spread of grey squirrels may create chances for other solutions to be found.