Please view this slow motion video. http://vimeo.com/6746847″
Here is my story:
I am a roofer and help homeowners solve their attic squirrel problems. They hire me to close holes chewed in fascia by squirrels. Occasionally the squirrels are aware that I am closing their attic access holes and become agitated. When the squirrels are in this agitated state, I witness them making spectacular jumps. I wondered how they got so much distance from their jumps.
I may have found the answer.
One day as I stepped out my backdoor, a squirrel crossed a few feet in front of me. Out of habit I stomped my foot to scare it away. It jumped straight up and for a split second remained motionless in midair. So where else could it go other than straight back down to the ground? To my astonishment, he twisted his body, spun his tail and propelled himself “horizontally” to a nearby fence. I am private pilot and familiar with flight principles and realized that I had just witnessed an aerobatic maneuver.
I designed a simple apparatus to observe and video the body twist and tail spinning action. I set up a bird feeding platform with peanuts and put a small bench close by so a squirrel could jump up to the feeder. I then moved the bench further and further away so the squirrel had to make longer and longer jumps to reach the feeder. Sure enough, spinning of the tail started to show up. My slow motion video shows three distinct tail spins; one at the beginning of the jump and two near the end. Notice that the squirrel’s jump appears to reach a peak about two feet in front of the feeder. Then, with the last two tail spins, it is able to reach the feeder.
I thought this observation might interest someone at Nature.