A black squirrel has become an internet sensation after footage of it repeatedly collapsing was uploaded to YouTube. / Marc Steensma / Creative Commons

Thousands of fans attempt to diagnose bizarre condition

A black squirrel has become an internet sensation after footage of it repeatedly collapsing was uploaded to YouTube.

Nicknamed ‘Tippy the Fainting Squirrel’ for fairly self-explanatory reasons, the clip shows a foraging black squirrel that is unable to stay on its feet for more than a few moments. Following a second or two of unconsciousness, Tippy gets back to his feet and continues foraging, only to collapse again soon after.

The footage, which failed to have any views in its first five days but has received over 150,000 since Saturday, was originally uploaded to YouTube by user Honor Via. It has also prompted extensive debate over exactly what could be causing Tippy’s bizarre ailment.

Initial speculation focussed on the fairly innocent explanation that Tippy may have eaten too many nuts and was collapsing due to fatigue. That account now appears to have been dismissed, however, as experts begin viewing the video.

One theory is that Tippy may have ingested a small amount of toxin or poison and that he is temporarily suffering from orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure) which will cease when the toxin is fully flushed out his system.

Others have speculated that Tippy may be narcoleptic – a theory that appears to be backed-up by a message posted by the video’s uploader which said Tippy habitually leans against the trunk of the tree while climbing. This would suggest Tippy may have had his fainting problem for a long time - potentially his entire life - and has taught himself the best coping techniques.

Others are far more worried for Tippy and believe he may be suffering from some sort of brain parasite or tumour. With a long, cold winter ahead, many are concerned by Tippy’s prospects, considering his significantly reduced ability to forage ahead of the hibernation period.

Another line of thinking is that the cute rodent may be sick with myotonia congenita – a neuromuscular channelopathy that affects the movement muscles. A video showing “fainting” goats suffering from the disorder has previously gone viral (see video below), although up until now the condition was thought to have been limited to certain breeds of dog, pony and, of course, goats.

If Tipsy is suffering from myotonia congenita, his fans need not be overly concerned. Although the ailment looks dramatic, it is actually a lot like muscle cramp. Essentially the sufferer’s muscles relax and contract at random, causing them to repeatedly fall over but without any pain or muscle damage.

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