Storage: It's Only Natural

12th Apr 2021 by Lloyd Bowen

Whether you’re considering a new mobile phone or looking for a new place to live, the ability to store such things as household items, food, or data is something that most of us would consider a top priority.

We humans have been storing from the very dawn of our species. Experts believe that early humans made bags from animal skins and bone to store food and resources, and throughout history, we see evidence of baskets weaved from plant fibres and pottery dating back nearly 20,000 years.

Storage, however, is not a behaviour exhibited exclusively by humans. The animal world is full of species that gather and store resources for survival – this behaviour is known as caching. Here is an in depth look at a few examples.

There are several avian species that cache food for survival. Years of research shows us that corvids are a highly intelligent family of bird species. New Caledonian Crows have been documented to not only use tools but manufacture them. Now, that’s not to say that the New Caledonian Crows are cobbling together impact drills and adjustable wrenches, but they are able to pick and manipulate twigs into hook shapes to acquire food.

Corvid intelligence is equally as impressive when it comes to food caching. The California Scrub Jay stores food in scattered caches (i.e. storing small quantities of food at several locations). In the process of collecting and storing this food, not only does the California Scrub Jay show the ability to plan ahead in choosing its cache sites, but it also demonstrates a complex and accurate spatial memory. However, the most intriguing aspect of the California Scrub Jay’s caching capabilities is that they store perishable foods, such as insects and fruit, meaning that the scrub jay remembers not only where they stored their food, but also what those items were and how long ago each one was hidden. This ability has been compared to episodic memory, previously thought unique to humans.

There are also many species of insect and arachnid that store resources. Several species of spider that produce silk to form webs use this material to snare and cocoon prey for later consumption, often injecting them with a paralysing toxin (and if you’ve seen The Lord of The Rings trilogy, you’ll know what this looks like – albeit on an exaggerated scale!).

Perhaps the most famed insect when it comes to storing resources, is the Honey Bee. Honey Bees forage for nectar and honeydew, and although some is consumed there and then as fuel, most of the nectar and honeydew that is collected, is later regurgitated and stored as honey. The honey is stored in hexagonal prismatic wax cells that make up a honeycomb, that, itself, is constructed by the Honey Bees that secrete their own wax (bees wax). Honey is stored in large quantities to fuel the hive’s survival during winter, where the Honey Bees stop flying and form a ‘winter cluster’. During winter, worker bees huddle around the queen bee at the centre of the cluster, shivering to keep her at a survivable temperature. The bees rotate position to ensure no bee is kept exposed to the dangerously low temperatures for too long (much like how penguins huddle together during a blizzard). During this time, they will consume their honey reserves to fuel themselves to produce body heat, integral to their survival.

Humans are mammalian, and, like us, there are other mammals that cache food for survival and, in some cases, maximising the level of nutrients drawn from a food source.

The Tayra, part of the weasel family, is found in tropical and subtropical forests across Central and South America. An opportunistic omnivore, the Tyra preys on rodents and other small mammals, birds, lizards, and invertebrates, as well as eating fruit and honey. One of the fruits consumed by the Tyra is the plantain (also known as a cooking banana) and, like us humans, the Tyra prefers to eat them when they are ripe. The Tyra, therefore, stores any unripe plantains that it gathers, for later consumption.

Perhaps the most famed animal of all for storing food, is the tree squirrel. Feeding on acorns from more than 20 species of oak along with walnuts, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, and beech nuts, tree squirrels scatter cache food throughout autumn in order to sustain themselves throughout winter. While foraging, the tree squirrel identifies the acorns and nuts best suited for storage (consuming any that are infested by weevils) demonstrating the ability to intelligently assess and categorise its food. Unspoilt acorns and nuts are then taken to one of several hidden cache locations. The most commonly accepted explanation behind squirrels hiding their hoarded food at multiple locations is that it protects the majority of their cache from being stolen. Pilfering is common among tree squirrels. So much so, that in addition to multiple caches, squirrels will dig several fake holes to deceive other animals. They will sometimes even rebury the same cache multiple times to throw any onlookers off the trail. A single squirrel can create hundreds, if not thousands of caches each year and thanks to a detailed spatial memory and a strong sense of smell, they recover about 40% to 80% of the food they store.

Storage, it seems, is an integral part of life for many species, as well as humans. It is a natural instinct, ingrained in us to aid survival. It comes as no surprise, then, that storage plays a large role for many when it comes to running a business (many humans, that is).

There are even companies whose entire business is based around storage, such as ourselves and our business friends, Blue Self Storage.

Blue Self Storage are a self-storage company… and they like the colour blue! They provide secure containers and storage space for their customers to safely store their belongings, such as home furniture, vehicles, surplus stock, and they are an ideal service provider for anyone moving home or simply looking to free up space around the house. Their sites are protected by a 24/7 security team, CCTV and full perimeter fencing.

At The Maltings, we provide professional document storage for businesses that need that extra level of service and guarantee for their confidential records. Our services are fully GDPR compliant and we provide a collection and delivery service to our customers. Like our friends at Blue Self Storage, our site is protected by a 24/7 security team, CCTV, and full perimeter fencing. In addition, The Maltings’ facility is protected by fob access-controlled entry points ensuring that no one may access our facility without prior authorisation.

The security measures in place at Blue Self Storage and our sites, ensure that, unlike those poor squirrels that have their caches stolen, no one is able to access our facilities to pilfer what’s in storage.

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