Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mom's Personality Means Survival For Her Squirrel Pups

Date:
December 14, 2007
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
A recent study indicates that mother squirrels have personalities, and they are essential for the growth rate and survival of her pups. Giving a squirrel a personality test requires an open mind, the proper tools and patience. Researchers found that red squirrels have a range of personalities, from exploratory and aggressive to careful and passive.

Researchers have found that red squirrels have a range of personalities, from exploratory and aggressive to careful and passive.
Credit: iStockphoto/Richard Thornton

A recent study indicates that mother squirrels have personalities, and they are essential for the growth rate and survival of her pups.

Researchers at the Kluane Red Squirrel Project found that red squirrels have a range of personalities, from exploratory and aggressive to careful and passive. Both kinds of squirrels persist in the population because neither personality type offers an exclusive advantage for survival.

The project is a collaborative research effort of the University of Alberta, Michigan State University and McGill University. The team described personalities of red squirrel mothers and the effect personality has on the fitness of their pups. 

“We used to think of behavior as being unbelievably flexible, and that it could adapt based on immediate circumstance to increase fitness,” said Andrew McAdam, an MSU assistant professor of zoology and of fisheries and wildlife and one of the principal investigators in the Kluane Red Squirrel Project. “More recently, researchers have been finding that organisms are actually more consistent in their behavior. They may not be as flexible as we thought,” he said.

Giving a squirrel a personality test requires an open mind, the proper tools and patience. McAdam said that measuring a squirrel’s reaction to one situation could predict how it will behave in other circumstances.

To measure personality, squirrels were placed inside a large open box with holes in the floor, a mirror and a video camera. The way the squirrel explored the box and its reaction to seeing itself in the mirror also was measured. Because they don’t recognize their reflection, they think their reflection is an intruder. These tests were used to determine the activity level and aggressiveness of the squirrels.

In addition, researchers found squirrels that were active explorers were more likely to attack their reflection.

“Consistent behavior under different circumstances is personality,” McAdam said. “We recognize personality in people, dogs and cats – some are more aggressive and some are shy. Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that we see this in wild organisms as well.”

In years with abundant food, McAdam said, more active squirrels use their extra energy to their advantage and the pups grow faster. When food is sparse, their high-energy lifestyle is costly and the offspring of passive squirrel mothers have the advantage.

“There is a range of personalities in squirrels because the personality that is better for fitness depends on the year,” McAdam said.

Mother squirrel personalities also affected pup survival rates. Pups from aggressive mothers had lower survival rates when they were in their mother’s nest, but it wasn’t clear if it was a result of maternal style or other environmental effects. Once they left the nest, they had better survival rates through the first winter. McAdam said it’s likely that this is because they are better at competing for territories than other pups.

The work was published this fall in Ecology Letters. The project is funded through grants from the National Science Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Other authors on the paper include Adrienne Boon and Stan Boutin of the University of Alberta and Denis Rιale of Universitι du Quebec ΰ Montreal.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Mom's Personality Means Survival For Her Squirrel Pups." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071203204150.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2007, December 14). Mom's Personality Means Survival For Her Squirrel Pups. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071203204150.htm
Michigan State University. "Mom's Personality Means Survival For Her Squirrel Pups." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071203204150.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) — Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins