NATIVE to Tropical India, these squirrels far outdo others in size and hue.

In a Southern Indian Forest, an amateur photographer spied a multicolored rodent. The picture he took set the Internet alight last April, and no wonder :

Indian giant squirrels can weigh four pounds and stretch three feet from the tail to the snout - half again [at least] the size of most European and North American squirrels.

Unlike those northern nibblers, these behemoths forage in the tropical canopy, where there flexible feet and ankles allow them to leap 20 feet from branch to branch.

The vibrant fur may provide camouflage ''in the mosaic of shade and sun flecks where these arboreal giant thrive,'' says John Koprowski, author of Squirrels of the World.

Or, says evolutionary biologist Dana Kremples, ''there could be an evolutionary 'tightrope' that the squirrels must walk'' - bright enough for other giant squirrels to spot, but no so bright that predators notice.

The World Students Society thanks author Jeremy Berlin.


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