Fox squirrel shows addiction to mealy oak galls

14 October 2023, around 9 AM
UT Austin Campus, on boardwalk at the SW corner of RLP (Robert L. Patton Building). Cloudy day.

I was working on some class work before Genetics, and couldn't help but notice that every few seconds, a little thing fell from the live oak tree above me. They fell frequently, though at irregularly intervals from each other. It was almost comedic how each one tumbled off from the branches above, landing with a audible thud on the wooden planks before bouncing a few times more, before then rolling away to a stop on the planks or off into the adjacent landscaping.

While these projectiles from the sky likely posed no threat of injury to myself—unless perhaps I took one to the eye—I was rather uncomfortable about continuing my work with the possibility of one of these falling on my head. But what were they? Initially I thought they might be acorns, but I didn't think that acorns would fall so frequently from the tree. I investigated one of the fallen projectiles, and noted that they were mealy oak galls.

I further noted that every single one of these projectile galls were half gnawed open. A quick visual search into the canopy of the live oak revealed the culprit: a fox squirrel.

Peculiarly enough, the squirrel seemed to have an addiction to these little galls. It would clamber its way to a branch with the galls, and then systematical rip each gall off the tree, gnaw on it for a second or two, and then promptly discard the half-gnawed piece to grab another gall, leading to the fiasco below.

Each piece I observed was gnawed such that the gall was chewed with the middle cavity exposed, but with the larvae inside missing. My presumption is that the squirrel was consuming the larvae inside each gall. I have not observed this behavior before but would be interested to hear if anyone else has.

Bad video:

Posted on Νοέμβριος 21, 2023 1220 ΠΜ by arnanthescout arnanthescout


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Οκτώβριος 24, 2023 08:58 ΠΜ CDT


Evidence from a squirrel's unexplained craving for mealy oak galls. Dozens of these littered across the wood planks. See journal post for notes on this observation.


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