The Pine Martens have been showing off their skillful climbing abilities at the Speyside Wildlife Hide. With the increasingly later sunset times as we head towards the summer solstice, the forest surrounding our foraging space has remained well-lit from the lingering light. This has given guests the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Pine Martens as they move amongst the trees and towards the hide. The tall Pines form a complex canopy, holding their branches out at rights angles and at staggered heights. This makes an excellent environment for climbing and the Pine Martens easily and precisely carve paths through the forest, gracefully leaping between the trees. As they quietly descend onto the Pine Marten tables and get settled we can get a closer look at how the anatomy of this mustelid is so adequately designed for a tree-dwelling existence.
With a long bushy tail and long lean muscular legs, the Pine Martens are well-balanced movers. The tail is almost the same length as the body and provides the animal with an important counterbalance. Their legs have well-developed and powerful muscles for leaping and making speedy climbs whereas the rest of their body has a very slender and light frame. The distribution of the body-weight ratio is incredibly important for these arboreal mammals. The Pine Martens cannot become too heavy as this would hinder their ability to climb and make use of the slimmer branches. Because the legs must contain more muscle for the Pine Martens to climb efficiently they consequently make up a heavier portion of the animal and so the Pine Marten has to sacrifice its ability to carry excess body fat in order to limit its overall weight. The skeleton is also very light and the elongated spine very flexible and good for maneuvering around tight corners.
Another important feature that aids the Pine Marten’s ability to climb is the shape, size, and functionality of their feet. In comparison to the overall size of the animal, this Mustelid has particularly large feet with the bones in the hindfoot being 10cm in length! As a tree-dwelling mammal having large feet comes in handy. It is the foot that comes into contact with the tree the most and having a larger and flexible foot increases grip efficiency. The toe pads are also hair-free and this increases their ability to grip onto the tree’s bark. The brilliance of the climbing tool that is a Pine Martens foot is extended by its ability to rotate its ankles at 180°. This allows them to move headfirst down tree trunks and increases their range of motion. All in all the anatomy of a Pine Marten allows them to become the springy, precise, and silent movers that they are and ultimately excellent climber.
If you are interested in booking an evening at the Speyside Wildlife Mammal Hide please visit our website for more information!