DOI: 10.1101/453993Oct 26, 2018Paper

Red squirrels mitigate costs of territory defence through social plasticity

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Erin SiracusaAndrew G McAdam


For territorial species, the ability to be behaviourally plastic in response to changes in their social environment may be beneficial by allowing individuals to mitigate conflict with conspecifics and reduce the costs of territoriality. Here we investigated whether North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) were able to minimize costs of territory defence by adjusting behaviour in response to the familiarity of neighbouring conspecifics. Since red squirrels living in familiar neighbourhoods face reduced intrusion risk, we predicted that increasing familiarity among territorial neighbours would allow squirrels to spend less time on territorial defence and more time in the nest. Long-term behavioural data (1995-2004) collected from the same squirrels across several different social environments indicated that red squirrels reduced rates of territorial vocalizations and increased nest use in response to increasing familiarity with neighbours. In contrast, cross-sectional data (2015-2016), which provided observations from each individual in a single social environment, did not provide evidence of this plasticity. Post-hoc analyses revealed that evidence of social plasticity in this system was primarily due to within-ind...Continue Reading

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