Habitat effects on hoarding plasticity in the Eurasian red squirrel (**Sciurus vulgaris**)
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Hystrix. - Place of publication unknown
, p. 14-17
University of Antwerp
Hoarding patterns can be classified into two general types: scatter-hoarding and larder-hoarding, but there are intermediate types. Various factors affect hoarding patterns. Animals hoarding identical seeds in different habitats may use different hoarding patterns to adapt to habitat variation. We used a sample-plot investigation method to study cache features and recovery rate of seeds of Arolla pine (Pinus cembra) by Eurasian red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) in 2009 and 2010 in two subalpine forests with different tree-species composition in the Italian Alps. Hoarding patterns of red squirrels varied among habitats: the typical scatter-hoarding pattern with most caches including 2-6 seeds is found in spruce (Picea abies) dominated forest, while a combination of few large caches (>= 10 seeds) and many small caches (less than 10 seeds) is found in Arolla pine dominated forest. Consequently, average number of seeds/cache was higher in the latter habitat. Among five microhabitats, shrubs, grass, moss, fallen leaves, and stone, Eurasian red squirrels preferred fallen leaves and moss as hoarding substrate. Cache recovery investigation indicated that recovery rate was 62% in spruce forest and only 21% in Arolla pine forest. A lower availability of suitable hoarding microhabitat resulted in changes in hoarding patterns of red squirrels in Pinus cembra dominated forest. We suggest that the main factor influencing differences in recovery rate was a higher cone production per tree in Pinus cembra forest.