A spotted skunk performing its signature handstand. Image by Jerry W. Dragoo courtesy of the Field Museum.

Have you ever seen a skunk do a handstand? If you do, then run away!  

Otherwise, you are about to get sprayed.

Spotted skunks are the handstand champions of the skunk world. Now, there may be more species of them than scientists previously recognized. Spotted skunks live across North and Central America, and until recently scientists had described four different species of them.

New research on the genetics of spotted skunk species shows that there are more genetic differences between populations than previously thought. There may actually be seven species of spotted skunks instead of just four.

To get lots of samples of spotted skunks from across their range, the research team used DNA from museum specimens and from wild skunks.

One of the types of spotted skunks, the Plains skunk (from the Great Plains region of North America), might be endangered. Listing it as a separate species could help efforts to protect it.

Now that the scientists see genetic differences between the skunk populations, they want to study the different populations. They are curious to see if they are eating different things or if they behave differently in other ways.

The face of a western spotted skunk. Image by R.C. Dowler.

A western spotted skunk. Image by R.C. Dowler.

Read more on this story on Mongabay.com:


Creative writing activity: learn about alliteration!

Alliteration is the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words (Oxford Dictionary). “Spotted skunks” is an example of an alliteration. Alliteration is a technique that writers use to make writing more interesting and engaging. Alliteration is sometimes used in nursery rhymes and poems.

Try create your own alliteration about spotted skunks! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Seven startled skunks sprayed suddenly …

Spotted skunks stood somewhere soft …

Silent silky skunks sneaked by softly …

Now, you have a go! And add some drawings, too.