Squirrel seen attempting to savage fruit bat

Mr William Stanley witnessed a squirrel trying to savage a fruit bat to death, while he was conducting fieldwork in the forests of Tanzania.

"No-one has recorded this type of behaviour or incident before," says Mr Stanley, who saw the squirrel try to kill the bat in a tree above his head.

Rodents are not known to eat meat or hunt animals, so it is unclear why the squirrel would launch such an attack.

Mr Stanley, who works at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, US has published details of the incident in the African Journal of Ecology.

For the past 20 years, he has studied small mammals in Tanzania, focusing on shrews, bats and rodents, usually conducting field work during July and August.

During one afternoon survey in the Mwofwomero Forest, in the Rubeho Mountains, he heard a fruit bat shrieking.

"It was strange to hear an alarm call or vocalisation from a fruit bat typically we hear at night," he told BBC Earth News.

"That's what caught my attention. When I looked up I realised that there was a squirrel up in the branches where the noise was coming from. The next thing I saw was the flapping of the bat's wings."

"It became apparent that there was an altercation happening between the squirrel and the bat, something I'd never seen before or ever heard of."

"The squirrel had the bat in its mouth, or it was at least biting it, and then the bat went quiet for a while and then starting flapping its wings again."

More reading at BBC News, 18 Sept 2009

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