Yes, Giant Technicolor Squirrels Exist

February 23, 2021 at 7:16 pm

Brightly colored, 3-foot squirrels roam the rain forests of Southern India

CREDIT: Kaushik Vijayan

It sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie, but giant, rainbow-colored squirrels are very real.

Twice as big as “normal” grey squirrels, and with much more vivid coloring, Malabar giant squirrels (ratufa indica) dwell in the treetops of Southern India’s rain forests.

Their coats range from deep purple to rust orange, reddish maroon and cream colored, with the full spectrum becoming visible in direct sunlight.

CREDIT: Kaushik Vijayan

They can reach over 3 feet long and up to 5 pounds. For comparison, American grey squirrels almost half that length and only 1.5 pounds.

CREDIT: Kaushik Vijayan

The animals feast on giant tropical fruit (like jack fruit), nuts and flowers.

It’s not fully understood why the burly squirrels evolved to have such brightly colored fur, as one would think it would be a disadvantage when it comes to hiding from predators.

Some think the color variation does actually camouflage the animals from predators below, as it seems to match the dark and bright shades of the tree canopy, which they spend almost their entire lives in.

Some think it might help attract mates.

The beautiful squirrels were listed as a vulnerable species just 20 years ago. They’ve since been removed from that list but their habitat is still threatened by deforestation and human development.