black squirrels

David Mathog mathog at
Tue Jan 3 12:52:00 EST 1995

Each Christmas we travel to my wife's parents' house in San Jose, CA. 
There are a lot of old trees in that neighborhood, and many many squirrels.
I vaguely recall my in-laws mentioning several years ago that there was a
black squirrel about, two years ago I saw one, and this year they appeared
to make up about half of the squirrel population.  The "normal" squirrels
are grey, but the black ones are a very dark coal-black color.  In
addition, and this is based on just watching them - no measurements, the
black ones are slightly smaller, and their tails are slightly less bushy. 

Do any zoologists out there know if this coat color allele is common in
squirrels?  I've never seen a black one anywhere else, but judging from
their increasing abundance, it looks like it provides a selective advantage
in that suburban niche. 


David Mathog
mathog at
Manager, sequence analysis facility, biology division, Caltech 

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