Saturday, September 20, 2008
Over dinner, Nimue stated quite confidently that skunks perform a hand-stand when spraying their opponents... this was not a behavior we had heard of, so some follow up research was quickly undertaken to determine if the six-year-old was in fact correct.
And indeed -- according to an article (Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 2, No. 2 (May, 1921), pp. 87-89) the spotted skunk, Spilogale interrupta, as well as the Northern skunk, Mephitas putida, display this behavior as a warning in advance of spraying their malefactors!
The Western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis) seems to also do the handstand (a great sketch in this article) -- my guess is that they do this so they can engage the enemy while keeping them in view! The hand-stand allows the skunks to look forward at their target, while still aiming their nether regions forward. Seems like a useful adaptation to me! I am, however, in no hurry to witness their acrobatic prowess first hand.