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Scientists Find Origin of Jersey Red Squirrels

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Dec 11, 2012 01:06 PM EST
Red Squirrel
Red Squirrel (Photo : Flickr/ Alastair Rae)

A new genetic study sheds light on the origin of red squirrels in Jersey, an island that is located off the coast of Normandy, France.

The study, carried out by the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent, U.K., has found that red squirrels in the east of the island are of French descent and those in the west have English origins. The squirrels living in the center of the island have a mixed origin of South England and France, reports Jersey Isle News.

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Researchers wanted to find out if the squirrels have started to inbreed and noticed that the squirrels do not inbreed severely.

Red squirrels were introduced to the island in 1885. Red squirrels are endangered in the U.K., where they face competition with grey squirrels, reports BBC.

"Jersey has one of the few closed red squirrel populations left, but we don't suffer any of the problems they have in the UK with squirrel pox and greys overwhelming the red squirrels habitats," Major Steven Coleman, chief executive of the Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) which funded the study, told BBC.

"It is vitally important that we keep a track on these dear creatures."

Despite the species being declared as endangered in the U.K., the population of the red squirrels on the island is thriving, thanks to an increasing availability of food resources.

Mature trees that are around 70 years old and people placing ample food in bird and squirrel feeders are the factors that have ensured a significant growth in the population of red squirrels, said researchers.

They are further planning to study the genetics of the squirrels.

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