Which character on the cartoon show SpongeBob SquarePants has to wear a helmet to breathe underwater?

And the answer: Sandy.
Photo credit: Silverije.

Yee-haw! A squirrel hailing from Texas, Sandy Cheeks wears a diving suit with a helmet in order to breathe when she’s out and about in Bikini Bottom. Conversely, ocean natives have to wear helmets filled with water when they visit her humble abode, an oxygen-filled sealed dome on the ocean floor.

Though squirrels might not actually live in tree domes under the sea, the squirrel family is known for its remarkable diversity and wide range of habitats. In fact, squirrels live on every continent in the world, aside from Australia and Antarctica. Remarkably, there are over 300 species of squirrels on the planet, meaning these resourceful rodents can thrive in anything from Arctic tundras to tropical rainforests to farmland, suburbs, or big cities. Though, not every species of squirrel looks quite the same—the squirrel family includes species like prairie dogs, marmots, flying squirrels, and yes, even chipmunks.

As they are known to do, squirrels store nuts in the ground and in trees to come back to during the less abundant winter months. Yet these sneaky creatures will sometimes play tricks on hungry onlookers when they think their nut could be found, by performing an action called “deceptive caching.” Nut in cheek, squirrels will dig a hole fit for their treasure before quickly filling it back in with dirt. This way, any free-loader looking for a snack is none the wiser, and the squirrel may move on to properly bury their nut elsewhere (and quite possibly never come back to, as around 20% of squirrels’ buried nuts remain, well, buried).

Did you know?

Yesterday was National Squirrel Appreciation Day! Squirrels play important roles in ecosystems across the globe, but did you know that humans were responsible for the large abundance of squirrels in parks and public spaces across the United States? That’s right—squirrels were actually introduced to urban areas in the late nineteenth century, as a way of creating “a bucolic atmosphere that was entertaining, enlightening, and salubrious.” Learn more about how to appreciate the squirrels in your local park—or those on the other side of the world—here.

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