division of labor

Study Finds Female Squirrels Do All the Work While the Men Lie Around, Which Might Sound Familiar

Photo: Fazer44/Getty Images

A new study involving rodents and tiny fitness trackers underscores what millions of working moms already know: You can have it all, but it will be a lot.

Researchers from Northern Arizona University put tracking collars on about 50 Arctic squirrels in Alaska for a new study in Royal Society Open Science. These critters hibernate from the end of summer to late spring, and they have lots to do during the summer months, including stuffing their faces, collecting food for winter, and mating.

Female squirrels have to do all of this and eat enough so they can carry and produce enough milk for their squirrel babies, plus care for the little ones in an underground nest. In order to capture all of this activity, the squirrel trackers were photo-sensitive to detect time above and below ground and had accelerometers to track movement. (The researchers did all of this because they’re trying to figure out why the males are more susceptible to being eaten by predators.)

The researchers found that while female squirrels spent less time above ground than males, they were much more active during that period — they had to get everything done in less time. What about those males? The authors wrote: “It is not clear what [the males] are doing while above ground … The additional time spent above ground may be simply to loaf/bask in the sun.” Inspiring.

The authors speculate that male squirrels might bake in the sun to warm up, but just lying around like that makes them more likely to be another animal’s lunch. You know what else would keep them warm? Doing more of the goddamn foraging.

Squirrel Study Confirms That Having It All Is Exhausting