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People have been told not to worry about squirrels 'splooting' after concern

People have been told not to worry about squirrels 'splooting' after concern

The sight of squirrels laying sprawled out on the concrete has been confusing parkgoers in New York City

The record-breaking temperatures are getting to us all lately, with sales of fans, paddling pools and ice-trays at an all time high.

However, we humans aren't the only animals who are trying to keep cool in the scorching summer heat.

It seems even squirrels have their own unique way of cooling off called 'splooting'.

Earlier this week, a tweet by a parks agency went viral on social media, confusing and delighting people in equal measure, after it informed followers: “If you see a squirrel lying down like this, don’t worry; it’s just fine”.

Indeed, the sight of a squirrel lying face down, sprawled out on the concrete, could be alarming to some. But according to New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation, the animals are merely regulating their body temperature - or splooting.

The agency added that 'on hot days, squirrels keep cool by splooting (stretching out) on cool surfaces to reduce body heat. It is sometimes referred to as heat dumping.'

While the origin of the word isn't known, it's generally used to describe an animal - often a cat or dog - when they are stretched out on the ground in an amusing posture.

The comical poses do seem to have a very practical use, as by extending their surface area to the ground, the squirrels are seemingly able to cool down more.

Such is the popularity of the term in veterinary circles, that Britain's Collins English Dictionary produced a short and sweet definition of 'Splooting'.

“VERB (intransitive): (of an animal) to lie flat on the stomach with the hind legs stretched out behind the body," it states.

Rather usefully, the entry adds that the word’s origin is probably 21st-century slang 'perhaps altered from splat'.

Fiona McPherson, a lexicographer at the Oxford English Dictionary, told The Washington Post on Friday (August 12) that 'Sploot is a relatively recent coinage' and has not yet been included in the famed dictionary, although it is 'tracking' the word.

“Etymologically, it may be a variant of splat, but I have also seen suggestions that it is a blend of splay and scoot,” she added.

“It has been quite closely associated with dogs, notably corgis".

Despite its new-found popularity, experts still cannot agree on the origin of the term 'sploot'.

Phonetician John Harris asserts that while several internet sources suggested the word was derived from 'split' or 'splat', he considers this 'unlikely' because 'there are no regular sound changes in English that would take you from either of these words to sploot'.

However, the emeritus professor of linguistics at University College London speculates that it could be the words 'splay' and the last part of 'cute' combined to make a whole new term. The more you know, aye?

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Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

Topics: US News, Animals, Science, Viral