Henry the Melanistic Squirrel

Melanism is derived from the Greek word melas meaning black and is a word used to describe the development of dark-colored pigmentation in the skin of organisms.  Henry is an Eastern Gray squirrel who isn’t actually gray like most of his species, but is black.  While there are a few reasons why a darker version of animals develop, Henry’s shiny black coat is due to what’s known as an adaptive process.  As tree squirrels, the lighter gray coats of Eastern Gray squirrels provide the perfect camouflage when paused against the similarly colored trunks of many trees.  The melanistic versions Eastern Gray and Fox Squirrels are believed to have developed in the old growth forests of North America where having black fur helped the squirrels to blend in to the dark environment.

Whether they have gray or black fur, these squirrels still enjoy a delicious nut:



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