“Between bears and filming at night, capturing these flying squirrels in action was far from simple.” Yet this is how BBC filmmakers get footage of animals out in the forest. These scenes were filmed for Eden: Untamed Planet, a look at some of the now-rare places on Earth where nature has been “protected from the most damaging effects of human interference.”
But the northern flying squirrels, while definitely trying to steal the show, aren’t exactly why cinematographer Luke Barnett and his team were in Alaska. The filmmakers were waiting for the squirrels to find subterranean fungi that they love to eat.
“There’s a truffle in the ground here that gives off pheromones that squirrels are very much attracted to… they dig up the truffles and then race off with them through the forest and probably eat them, and that spreads the spores all through the forest.”
From Utah State University’s Intermountain Herbarium site:
Fungi and plants are sessile (immobile). Unlike animals, they cannot walk or fly to new habitats. Their immobility generally leaves only two ways for fungi and plants to extend their range: they can grow into an adjoining area, or disperse spores or seeds…
Truffles are an example of passive dispersal by animals. Truffles are produced below ground, so they have to be unearthed to be dispersed. As truffle spores mature, they develop an aroma which attracts animals, who dig up the truffles for food. The spores are not digested and eventually pass through the animal at some distance from where the truffle was dug up…
Animal vectors greatly improve the chance that a spore will be deposited in a site favorable for germination and growth.
Another cool note from the video: These squirrels fluoresce under UV light, making them easier to spot at night.
Watch more videos about squirrels, spores, and Alaska:
• How does a northern flying squirrel ‘fly’?
• Watch These Frustrated Squirrels Go Nuts – Deep Look
• Sciuridaes, an anthropomorphic squirrel video project by Lumi Barron
• Spore Rain: A mushroom releases its spores on the breeze
• Why do Leafcutter Ants cut leaves and carry them away?
• Collared Pika Prepares For Winter in Wild Alaska