Cues Used for Localizing Food by the Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)


Department of Biology, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York 13323, U.S.A.

Department of Biological Sciences, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts 02181, U.S.A.


We compared the use of olfactory, visual, and spatial cues for learning the location of stored food by gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). All experimental cues were extrinsic, that is, they originated from the environment around the food rather than from the food itself. In training trials, artificial caches with one of two odors, one of two colors, and six of 12 spatial locations contained sunflower seeds. In experimental trials, the odors, colors, and sets of spatial locations associated with food were reversed one at a time, so that only two of the three training cues gave evidence of the food rewards. Consequent declines in food localization by the squirrels revealed differential use of particular cue modalities. The data show that squirrels used visual cues the most and olfactory cues the least with this design. These results, along with other evidence, suggest that gray squirrels use spatial memory in food recovery.