Speaking of being eaten, you might be wondering why Indian giant squirrels are colored so flamboyantly? Don't the bright colors give them away to these predators?
"Tropical squirrels, and Asian squirrels in particular, seem to include some very brightly colored squirrels," McRae says. "I can think of a couple possible explanations. One is that the patches of color break up the visual shape of the squirrel and could make it harder to recognize as a squirrel to a hunting predator. Even light patches on a dark background can have this effect. Not camouflage exactly, but pattern disruption. 'That's not my shoulder, that's a patch of sky.'
"Another hypothesis," McRae says, "is that the different colors help squirrels recognize each other, at least at a species level, so they can discern potential mates and rivals from other creatures. Those same patterns could potentially enable visual recognition of individuals as well, although squirrels in general do a lot of communication with scent."
Indian giant squirrels are fairly common. While they were listed as "vulnerable" in 1996 on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, their numbers have risen and they are now considered a species of "Least Concern." That's good news for this crazy-colored rodent.
Want to see one in real life? You won't find them in the wild in North America. Your best bet is to head to India and look high up in the trees. Or find them on Twitter, as new people "discover" them.
Originally Published: Aug 31, 2018