In a multi-year study with profound implications for the fields of evolutionary biology, genetics and psychology, a team of UMBC scientists has determined that squirrels living on the university's Baltimore County campus possess extraordinary intelligence and motor skills. The findings, to be published simultaneously in Nature and Modern Rodent, include evidence that UMBC squirrels are capable of communicating and remembering complex messages, making and executing plans, completing arithmetic calculations, and anticipating the movements of UMBC's human population.
In one remarkable episode, two of the study's authors observed 18 squirrels crouching together near a campus eatery. When one squirrel raised a front paw and blinked, the others immediately fanned out and launched a raid that netted 2.6 pounds of pastry, french fries and other discarded foodstuffs. A message was later found scrawled in the dirt where the squirrels had been crouching: "Meat heer at nun." The scientists were unable to determine the message's source.
"Everyone at UMBC knows that you walk out of Chick-fil-A at lunchtime at your own peril," observed Dr. Kyra Milgram, a biologist and the research team's leader. "We had heard rumors of organized squirrel activity for years. But the specific inspiration for this study came from an informal faculty meeting at Starbucks. Colleagues sitting near a window swore they saw two squirrels playing catch with a Chick-fil-A nugget. One professor claimed to have heard chirping that sounded exactly like Cee Lo Green's 'Forget You,' which is really shocking when you realize that the song was not even popular yet."
The research team conducted extensive observations of squirrels at other universities in the region and found no evidence of elevated intelligence. Meanwhile, UMBC's squirrels have been seen moving pieces of trash in what the scientists have concluded are essentially elaborate games of chess. But the campus appears to have no squirrel football team.
Co-Create UMBC is a blog for and about UMBC, written by David Hoffman and Craig Berger from the Office of Student Life. Join the Co-Create UMBC group on MyUMBC. Like Co-Create UMBC on Facebook. And follow David and Craig on Twitter.