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Abstract

The Cape ground squirrel (Xerus inauris) of southern Africa is a tropical species that does not hibernate. Field observations using scan and all-occurrence sampling revealed that this species was highly social. Female Cape ground squirrels formed social units of related females and their subadult young, as is typical for other ground squirrels. Female social groups were usually composed of 2–3 adult females and 2–3 subadults of either sex. Members of these female social groups shared sleeping burrows and feeding ranges. Female social groups did not cooperatively defend their feeding ranges from adjacent groups in other burrow clusters. Interactions within female social groups were highly amicable, and no dominance hierarchy was evident. Males in this species also lived in groups. These all-male bands of up to 19 individuals lived almost independently from female groups. The entire male band shared one home range, although ephemeral sub-bands were formed daily. The composition and size of these sub-bands changed daily. Interactions among males, which were largely amicable, included allogrooming and sleeping together. Analysis of interactions within the band indicated a stable, linear, dominance hierarchy among males. Dispersal in this species appeared to be male biased as is typical of other ground-dwelling squirrels, with males dispersing at reproductive maturity. Males joining male bands were thus dispersers and were not likely to be closely related. Sociality in the Cape ground squirrel may be summarized as highly social female kin clusters and associated social non-kin bands of males.