15 November 2009

Alaska Images Uploaded to www.bestnatureimages.com

Arctic Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus parryii) feeding at Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park, AK

I spent the weekend in Richmond at my wife's marathon and no time for nature photography, but I thought I'd announce that I'm in the middle of uploading all my images from my trip to Alaska this summer.  Hopefully I'll have them all up on bestnatureimages.com by the beginning of the new week.  In the meantime, I thought I'd post this uploaded, but previously unposted image of one of my favorite Denali mammals.  The arctic ground squirrel (Spermophilus parryii).  I spent some time following this one around with a 300mm f/2.8L IS lens that I rented for the trip.  It was feeding on various grasses in the tundra gardens on top of the new and improved, environmental, Eielson Wilderness Visitor Center (www.nps.gov/dena/parknews/eielson-visitor-center.htm).

I don't think the ground squirrels get as much respect as they should at Denali, given the fact that they are often easily approachable and that squirrels in some places are habituated to getting food from tourists who for some reason can't seem to read the "Don't feed the wildlife" notices posted everywhere.  They really are fascinating animals with an interesting biology and a dramatic impact on the ecosystem.  One of the most amazing things about arctic ground squirrel biology (and there are many cool things) is the fact that researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have found that these squirrels adopt the lowest temperature ever measured in a hibernating mammal during their 7-8 months in hibernation.  Their body temperature actually drops below freezing (referred to as supercooling), but every 2-3 weeks they shiver and move in their sleep for 12-15 hours and bring their body temperature back up to normal temperature.  Then they stop shivering and their temperature drops back below freezing.  Very interesting physiology, which is still being studied.

That's all for now.  But hopefully I'll be back tomorrow or Tuesday with another post.

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