Whole Forest

The Big Picture

By now, you have an idea of how the squirrels and trees interact. Let's take a look at the big picture and see what happens over time.

In the forest, red oak and white oak trees drop many acorns every year. Once the acorns have been dropped, the oaks need outside forces, including squirrels, to carry the acorns to other parts of the forest. (What are other ways acorns might be moved away from the parent tree?)

Sometimes after a squirrel has buried an acorn in a different part of the forest, the squirrel will forget to go back and eat it. The acorn is then left in the ground to sprout into a beautiful new oak tree. Certainly, the oak trees need the squirrels for their survival -- But the squirrels need the oak trees just as much! Their main source of food is the acorns that fall from oak trees. (Quick Review: Do you remember how they are different?) Because the acorns from the red oak and the white oak are different, a squirrel has to be able to "decide" which one to eat. When a squirrel is selecting which to eat, its actions are determined by how much fat the acorn has, how many tannins it has, how many insects it has, and its sprouting season. It seems like a lot to think about: do you think squirrels are good desicion makers?

Although many scientists, such as Michael Steele have done wonderful research about squirrels and oak trees, there are still many questions to be asked and answered. If you look outside, you will see that squirrels and oak trees are all around our homes and schools. Watch them and maybe you can come up with some questions of your own to explore.

Experiments you can try.