Science & Technology

Ground squirrels have four specific personalities that shape the ecosystem

Humans are not the only animals with great personalities. Individual characteristics, temperament, and coping style Very diverse range of animals, Sea anemones, fish, birds, mammals, spiders, lizards, etc. In fact, some experts believe that individuality exists throughout the animal kingdom.

The squirrel seems to be no exception. More than 3 years of study of the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel in the Rocky Mountains (Callospermophilus lateralis) Clarified four main personality traits, including boldness, aggression, activity level, and sociability.

These features are also found in other ground-dwelling squirrels, such as the yellow-bellied marmot (Marmot flavivir), Siberian chipmunks (Tamia Siberian Chipmunks), And Belding’s ground squirrel (Urocitellus beldingi), And they seem to have a strong influence on how individuals choose their ecological niche and use its resources.

For example, the bolder gold-covered ground squirrels tend to move faster and maintain a wider core range than Shire’s.

While such individual choices have a spillover effect on the overall structure of the environment, the role of individuality in shaping habitat preferences has been investigated in only a handful of species.

For example, the more active North American red squirrels are more likely to travel further and reach other red squirrel territories, even though this species is generally considered non-social.

“This adds to a small but increasing number of studies that show that individuals are important.” To tell Jacqueline Aliperti, a wildlife ecologist at the University of California, Davis, and lead author of the study.

“Explaining individuality in wildlife management can be especially important when predicting wildlife response to new conditions, such as habitat changes and destruction due to human activity.”

Identifying animal personality traits is a tricky business that requires a lot of data to be collected.

“Personality is a subjective term that many people relate to, but in our field, to configure an action as a particular personality type, we define it and individuals perform the same action over and over again. We need to show it consistently and statistically, “Aliperti tells Science Alert.

Over the years, scientists have put together several standardized methods for quantifying animal personality traits, and four of these tests are current studies of gold-covered squirrels. Was used for.

The first experiment conducted at the ground squirrel was an open field test. There, free-range wild squirrels were captured and placed in sealed boxes with notched holes and lines. Next, we observed their reaction to the out-of-box movement and the search for holes to determine the squirrel’s tendency towards movement and investigation.

In the second test, a mirror was inserted into the box to allow researchers to observe how an individual reacts to “another” of their own kind (squirrels recognize themselves by reflexes). can not). This signaled the sociability and aggression of the squirrel.

In a third test, researchers quietly and slowly approached wild individuals to see how long it took to escape. This is a common way to judge an individual’s shyness.

And in the final test, the squirrel was trapped in a simple trap and did no physical harm to measure the tendency of the squirrel to stay calm.

Mirror simulation experiment. (Jacqueline Aliperti / University of California, Davis)

These experiments were conducted in the home range of squirrels over three summers and were repeated several times between the same individuals where possible.

After sieving their data, the author did not find any signs of an exploratory personality type in the squirrel, but this trait may have been identified using various tests. All other major behavior categories were present.

In the end, the authors found that the squirrels with the highest scores for bold and active personality types appear to be exploring larger core areas than less active individuals in Shire. However, these more extroverted squirrels did not always have a wide home range.

“Predation is an important source of death for golden-mantled ground squirrels, and bolder individuals are, by definition, more at risk,” the authors say. explanation“Therefore, Shire individuals limit their movement to well-known and safe areas, bold individuals regularly go out to high-risk areas, and core areas using habitat patches that Shire individuals avoid. May expand. “

On the other hand, the more aggressive personality type squirrels showed both a wider home range and a larger core area. They also dominated rocky perches. As a result, researchers believe it is this particular property that pushes the species into a new range.

Individuals with the highest scores in all four personality traits have more perches, wider home ranges, and larger core areas than individuals with the lowest scores in all four traits. I did.

“It is not surprising that aggressive or bold and aggressive individuals tend to have access to perches. These behavioral types often correlate as aggressive or initial behavioral syndromes and are usually associated with resources. Because it is believed to indicate more use of space, “writers write..

But what is surprising is how some of these positive individuals appear to be social. Like red squirrels, gold-covered squirrels are considered non-social.

In fact, the best perches were often held by the individuals who scored the highest in sociability. Even if it is a social creature, there may be advantages to being social.

“”[P]Perhaps more sociable squirrels are more likely to search aggressively [their own kind], Increases the likelihood of sharing resources such as overlapping home ranges and thus perches, “the authors say. suggestion..

But animal personality is a difficult science, Aliperti explains to Science Alert. Its roots depend on researchers who classify animal observations. In other words, you can’t really be sure if there are any other traits or behaviors that are missing.

Still, if you completely ignore the individuality of an animal, you will definitely miss most of the big picture.

The study was published in Animal behavior..

Ground squirrels have four specific personalities that shape the ecosystem Ground squirrels have four specific personalities that shape the ecosystem

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