Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Animal Behaviour 59:3 (2000), pp. 535–541; doi: 10.1006/anbe.1999.1345 Copyright © 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour; published by Elsevier. Used by permission.


Juvenile thirteen-lined ground squirrels, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus, are less vigilant (i.e. they spend less time visually scanning the environment) than adults. To determine whether nutritional need was a potential cause of this difference, we supplemented two groups of free-ranging juveniles during the predispersal stage, while juveniles were still near and around the natal burrows. The high-energy food group (HEF: 11 squirrels) received peanut butter and oats while the low-energy food group (LEF: seven squirrels) received lettuce. Adults (14 squirrels) were also supplemented, but due to their greater home range sizes, it was not feasible to classify them as either HEF or LEF. To evaluate the effect of supplementation on antipredator vigilance, the behavioral act of visually scanning for predators, we videotaped individuals while they were foraging above ground during 5-min observation periods. Each squirrel was observed and weighed during three time periods over 23 days. From the videotape, we extracted measures of time spent vigilant, locomoting and foraging. All three categories of squirrels gained mass over the study period, but the HEF juveniles rapidly exceeded that of the LEF juveniles. Early in the study, LEF and HEF juveniles did not significantly differ in either body mass or time budgets, and, initially, both juvenile groups were similar to adults in the amount of time devoted to vigilance. Later in the study, the behavior of HEF juveniles closely resembled that of adults (increased time devoted to vigilance and decreased time devoted to foraging), while LEF juveniles decreased vigilance and increased their foraging time. This study indicates that for thirteen-lined ground squirrels the lower vigilance of juveniles is due, at least in part, to the greater nutritional needs of young animals with consequent increases in foraging, which is largely incompatible with vigilance.