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Abstract

Male thirteen-lined ground squirrels search actively for spatially scattered females during the mating season, and male mate-location ability is a key determinant of male mating success. These circumstances are predicted to favour male spatial abilities. I conducted a female-removal study in which females were observed the day before coming into oestrus and then removed for 2 h on the morning they were sexually receptive; males were scored on the sites they visited while searching for removed females. Two hypotheses were tested: 1. males search preferentially at sites where they had encountered the female the day before (i.e. males remember particular locations used by the female); and 2. male searches are guided by long-distance chemical cues. The results showed little evidence for male attraction to sites used frequently by the female, where residual chemical cues should have been strongest; moreover, males failed to locate oestrous females that were displaced from their home ranges. Consistent with the spatial-memory hypothesis, male searches were biased toward sites where they had interacted with the female, suggesting that males are capable of using spatial memory to relocate individual females once they become sexually receptive. In addition, both the order of male site visits and male performance on a maze task indicate a potential role for spatial memory in avoiding recently searched sites.