Social media has got a lot of bad press lately. Sure, it’s isolating us from society and facilitating the rise of psychopathic AI, but hey – it definitely has some redeeming qualities too. It can help solve murders. It can teach us how to care for a friend in their time of need. And, so, so often, it can provide us with top-quality fuzzy animal content.
The latest critter to go viral comes to us from the Inokashira Park Zoo, Tokyo. She’s a squirrel, and it’s pretty easy to see why she’s so popular.
Yes, it seems even rodents can’t escape being objectified in 2018. Honestly, people. Show this hardworking lady some respect.
So what’s behind this pint-sized pin-up’s unexpected physique?
Squirrels, being mammals, do of course suckle their young. Does the photo show a mama squirrel on her way to nurse her pups?
It’s a nice hypothesis, but squirrel scientists have ruled it out. Squirrels, it turns out, have a spectacularly bizarre physiological response to breastfeeding their young: their nipples grow longer and lose all their surrounding fur.
“Most of us are so trained that we can see large nipples [of lactating females] with the naked eye when a squirrel is about 30 to 40 feet [9-12 meters] into a tree,” squirrelologist Ben Dantzer explained to National Geographic.
In fact, the photo doesn’t show breasts at all.
See, unlike us pathetic humans (and horses, elephants, and guinea pigs, among others), squirrels have far more than two nipples, with some species racking up an intimidating 10 teats. And what’s more, this formidable nipple collection isn’t centered on the pectoral muscles like ours are – they run the full length of their little squirrel chest.
In short: these aren’t boobs we’re looking at. So what are they?
According to Dantzer, this soft-core Sciurid is just, well, chubby.
“I suspect that this squirrel, just by looking at the picture, probably lives around humans and eats a lot of garbage and fatty foods,” he explained.
That may well be a good guess. This isn’t exactly a wild squirrel: Inokashira Park Zoo has a “squirrel garden”, where visitors can get up close to the mischievous rodents and, yes, feed them. In fact, squirrels are the zoo's mascot.
This curvy lady is not the only one to be piling on the pounds recently. Squirrels across Europe and North America got amazingly tubby thanks to a recent warm winter – and, of course, it was only this month that we celebrated the majestic Fat Bears of Katmai Park.