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Why can Squirrels Survive Terminal Velocity


When we think of animals defying gravity, our minds might jump to birds soaring majestically through the sky. But there’s another airborne acrobat that often goes unnoticed—the humble squirrel. Have you ever wondered why these small rodents can seemingly cheat the laws of physics and survive falls from great heights? Join us on a journey into the physics and anatomy behind this unlikely superpower as we explore why squirrels can survive terminal velocity.

The Phenomenon of Terminal Velocity:

Terminal velocity is the maximum constant speed that a freely falling object eventually reaches when the resistance of the medium (usually air) prevents further acceleration. For humans, this speed is around 120 mph (193 km/h) when falling belly-first. Now, imagine a squirrel leaping from a tree, its fluffy tail spread wide like a parachute. How does it manage to escape the fate of a terminal velocity impact?

The Squirrel’s Secret Weapon: The Parachute Tail:

Squirrels possess a unique adaptation that aids in their survival during falls—their large, bushy tails. While these tails are not exactly parachutes, they do provide a significant increase in surface area, creating air resistance that slows down the squirrel’s descent.

As a squirrel leaps from a height, it extends its limbs and spreads its tail, creating a makeshift parachute. The increased drag generated by the tail acts against the force of gravity, slowing down the descent and preventing the squirrel from reaching lethal speeds upon impact. This adaptation is a remarkable example of how animals evolve to navigate their environment and overcome challenges.

Anatomy Matters: Limber Bodies and Strong Bones:

Squirrels are known for their agile and acrobatic movements, which are facilitated by their lightweight and flexible bodies. Unlike larger mammals, squirrels have a higher surface area relative to their mass, contributing to increased air resistance during a fall. Additionally, their small size and relatively strong bones help absorb the shock upon landing, reducing the risk of injury.

Survival of the Fittest: Evolutionary Advantages:

The ability to survive falls from trees is not just a party trick for squirrels; it’s an evolutionary advantage. In the wild, these arboreal creatures frequently navigate treetops and encounter situations where falls are inevitable. Squirrels that developed adaptations to survive such falls were more likely to pass on their genes, contributing to the prevalence of these survival traits in the squirrel population.


As we marvel at the resilience and adaptability of nature’s creations, the survival of squirrels at terminal velocity stands as a testament to the wonders of evolution. The combination of a parachute-like tail, limber bodies, and evolutionary advantages allows these small rodents to defy gravity and continue their acrobatic antics in treetops. The next time you spot a squirrel darting through the branches or executing a seemingly reckless leap, take a moment to appreciate the incredible adaptations that make them the unsung superheroes of the sky.

Summer Leonard
Summer Leonardhttps://studentsnews.co.uk
Summer Leonard writes about students and school life. She shares practical advice and understanding based on her own experiences. Her writing aims to create a supportive community among students, helping them navigate the challenges of academics. Through simple and thoughtful words, she inspires and guides those on the educational journey.

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