MacWhirter, R. B. 1992: Vocal and escape responses of Columbian ground squirrels to simulated terrestrial and aerial predator attacks. Ethology 91, 311–325.
Vocal and Escape Responses of Columbian Ground Squirrels to Simulated Terrestrial and Aerial Predator Attacks
Article first published online: 26 APR 2010
1992 Blackwell Verlag GmbH
Volume 91, Issue 4, pages 311–325, January-December 1992
How to Cite
MacWhirter, R. B. (1992), Vocal and Escape Responses of Columbian Ground Squirrels to Simulated Terrestrial and Aerial Predator Attacks. Ethology, 91: 311–325. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.1992.tb00872.x
- Issue published online: 26 APR 2010
- Article first published online: 26 APR 2010
- Received: December 30, 1991 Accepted: April 24, 1992 (J. Brockmann)
Most ground-dwelling sciurids emit nonrepetitive and repetitive calls in response to predators. In this study, I simulated terrestrial (badger Taxidea taxus) and aerial (flying disc) predator attacks to elicit escape and vocal responses in Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus). In response to the badger, ground squirrels often ran, but rarely to a burrow, and were most likely to give nonrepetitive calls before running or without running; rarely did they enter burrows. Ground squirrels in direct line of the flying disc (i.e., “target” squirrels under “attack”), ran to, and into, the nearest escape burrow and rarely gave a nonrepetitive call. Squirrels distant from the flying disc often called, usually while running or after assuming an upright posture at the nearest burrow. These results suggest that ground squirrels incur little cost when calling in response to aerial predators. Nonrepetitive and repetitive calling in response to the badger and flying disc did not differ significantly among age-sex classes; however, parous females were more likely than nonparous females to give both types of calls in response to the badger. Nonparous females either with or without close nondescendant kin rarely called in response to the badger. Thus, there was no indication that females exposed to the badger behaved nepotistically toward close kin other than their juvenile offspring. Nonrepetitive calling in response to the badger apparently functions primarily to warn vulnerable offspring and, hence, is a component of maternal investment. Although the occurrence of antipredator calling in response to the flying disc did not vary significantly among parity-kin classes, there was evidence that adult and yearling females were more likely to emit repetitive, and to a lesser extent, nonrepetitive calls, if close nondescendant kin were in the colony. I conclude that indirect fitness benefits, that is, kin selection, probably contributes to the maintenance of antipredator calling in response to aerial predators.