Squirrels use 'chunking' to organize their favorite nutsSeptember 13, 2017
Like trick-or-treaters sorting their Halloween candy haul, fox squirrels apparently organize their stashes of nuts by variety, quality and possibly even preference, according to new UC Berkeley research.
The study, published today in the Royal Society Open Science journal, is the first to show evidence of squirrels arranging their bounty using "chunking," a cognitive strategy in which humans and other animals organize spatial, linguistic, numeric or other information into smaller more manageable collections, such as subfolders on a computer.
Fox squirrels stockpile at least 3,000 to 10,000 nuts a year and, under certain conditions, separate each cache into quasi "subfolders," one for each type of nut, researchers said.
"This is the first demonstration of chunking in a scatter-hoarding animal, and also suggests that squirrels use flexible strategies to store food depending on how they acquire food," said study lead author Mikel Delgado, a post-doctoral researcher who conducted the study along with UC Berkeley psychology professor Lucia Jacobs.
Presumably, sophisticated caching techniques maximize the squirrels' ability to remember where they've stored their most prized treats while at the same time hiding them from potential pilferers, the researchers said.
"Squirrels may use chunking the same way you put away your groceries. You might put fruit on one shelf and vegetables on another. Then, when you're looking for an onion, you only have to look in one place, not every shelf in the kitchen," said study senior author Jacobs.
Over a two-year period, the research team tracked the caching patterns of 45 male and female fox squirrels as the reddish gray, bushy-tailed rodents buried almonds, pecans, hazelnuts and walnuts in various wooded locations on the UC Berkeley campus.
The study used combinations of locations and nut sequences on various groups of fox squirrels. In one experiment, for example, each of the squirrels were fed 16 nuts, one after another, under two separate conditions: Some were fed at the locale where they had cached the previous nut fed to them while others were fed at one central location, to which they would need to return if they wanted another nut.
Researchers gave some squirrels 16 nuts in rows of four, say, almonds followed by pecans, followed by hazelnuts and then walnuts, while others received 16 nuts in random order.
Using hand-held GPS navigators, researchers tracked the squirrels from their starting location to their caching location, then mapped the distribution of nut types and caching locations to detect patterns.
They found that the squirrels who foraged at a single location frequently organized their caches by nut species, returning to, say, the almond area, if that was the type of nut they were gathering, and keeping each category of nut that they buried separate. Meanwhile, the squirrels foraging in multiple locations deliberately avoided caching in areas where they had already buried nuts, rather than organizing nuts by type."These observations suggest that when lacking the cognitive anchor of a central food source, fox squirrels utilize a different and perhaps simpler heuristic (problem-solvi
University of California - Berkeley
Related Squirrels Articles:
A new study published May 30 in the Journal of Mammalogy describes a newly discovered third species of flying squirrel in North America -- now known as Humboldt's flying squirrel, or Glaucomys oregonensis.
Members of the Faculty of Biology of the Lomonosov Moscow State University have studied arctic ground squirrels, inhabiting the Indigirka river basin, and found out that their relatives now inhabit Kamchatka.
A theory that uses the mathematics of a drunken walk describes ecological invasions better than waves, according to Tim Reluga, associate professor of mathematics and biology, Penn State.
Varmint hunters' choice of ammunition plays a role in the amount of lead that scavengers such as golden eagles could ingest, a new study shows, and offers a way to minimize the lead exposure to wildlife.
Invasive species have shaped island ecosystems and landscapes in the Gulf of Alaska, but their histories are unknown.
While such development has encroached on and hindered nesting habitat for three types of sagebrush-obligate birds, predation of these birds has increased because rodent populations in the vicinity of oil and gas wells have increased.
Scientists have discovered human leprosy in British red squirrels, uncovering one leprosy-driving bacterial strain, in particular, that is similar to that responsible for outbreaks of the disease in medieval Europe.
Microbiologists at EPFL and the University of Edinburgh have discovered that red squirrels in Britain and Ireland carry the two bacterial species that cause leprosy in humans.
Leprosy in Britain's red squirrels is being caused by the same species of bacteria responsible for human infections, a DNA study has found.
Researchers are on a real-life search for what one calls 'the ultimate Pokémon': Zenkerella, an elusive scaly-tailed squirrel that has never been spotted alive by scientists.
Related Squirrels Reading:
Those Darn Squirrels!
by Adam Rubin (Author), Daniel Salmieri (Illustrator)
The story of what happens when a grumpy old man and some mischievous squirrels match wits—with hilarious results.
Old Man Fookwire is a grump who only likes to paint pictures of birds that visit his backyard. The problem is, they fly south every winter, leaving him sad and lonely. So he decides to get them to stay by putting up beautiful birdfeeders filled with seeds and berries. Unfortunately, the squirrels like the treats, too, and make a daring raid on the feeders. The conflict escalates—until the birds depart (as usual), and the squirrels come up with a plan that charms the... View Details
Squirrel Coloring Book: A Coloring Book for Adults Containing 20 Squirrel Designs in a variety of styles to help you Relax and De-Stress (Animal Coloring Books) (Volume 17)
by Adult Coloring World (Author)
Get fantastic value for money with this huge Squirrel Coloring Book! The 20 expertly illustrated Squirrel designs in this coloring book for adults will provide hours of entertainment! Features of this Squirrel Coloring Book: Single sided coloring pages allow for the pages to be removed Suitable for markers, felt tips, gel pens, coloring pencils and more due to single sided, removable pages Professional quality designs from start to finish 2 Color test pages at the back of the book Squirrel Coloring Book: This squirrel coloring book contains 40 single sided coloring pages. This... View Details
The Secret Life of Squirrels
by Nancy Rose (Author)
An irresistible photographic story featuring wild squirrels in homemade miniature domestic settings -- taking a bath, doing laundry, and barbecuing -- will surprise and amuse readers and animal lovers of all ages!
Adorable squirrels as you've never seen them!
You may think you know what squirrels do all day...but Mr. Peanuts is no ordinary squirrel. Instead of climbing tress, he plays the piano. ("Moonlight Sonutta" is his favorite.) Instead of scurrying through the woods, he reads books (such as A Tail of Two Cities). But everything is more fun with company, so Mr.... View Details
North American Tree Squirrels
by Michael A. Steele (Author), John L. Koprowski (Author)
Written with clarity and wit by two top scientists, North American Tree Squirrels illuminates the everyday lives of gray and fox squirrels, the two most dominant types of tree squirrels of the eastern United States.
Drawing on more than twenty years of research, Michael A. Steele and John L. Koprowski detail the behavior, reproduction, diet, physiology, and habitat use of these engaging rodents, as well as their complex interdependent relationships with seed-producing trees. The authors compare and contrast tree squirrels with other members of their family, including ground... View Details
Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels
by Bill Adler Jr. (Author)
Bird-loving Americans share a common problem: squirrels! These fast, greedy, incredibly crafty, fluffy-tailed rodents pillage birdfeeders before owners' very eyes. For 25 years, Outwitting Squirrels has been leading the charge to help bird lovers defend their feeders. This classic defense manual for the besieged birder has been fully updated to deal with the more tech-savvy twenty-first-century squirrel. It provides 101 cunning strategies, both serious and hilarious, for outsmarting these furry, but not so cute, creatures. Adler discusses the different bird personalities and the best seed to... View Details
Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide (The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist)
by Richard W. Thorington Jr. (Author), Katie E. Ferrell (Author)
Did you know that a groundhog is really a type of squirrel? That squirrels control their body temperature with their tails? That most squirrels have yellow-tinted eye lenses that work like sunglasses to reduce glare? That tree squirrels can turn their hind feet completely around when climbing down a tree head-first? In Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide, Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell unveil the fascinating world of one of the "most watched" mammals on the planet.
The diversity of squirrels is astounding. There are 278 species that inhabit all continents except... View Details
Squirrel's New Year's Resolution
by Pat Miller (Author), Kathi Ember (Illustrator)
"Do you know how to make a resolution?" Squirrel asked Bear. "Is it like making a snack?" Bear laughed. "Resolutions are more important than snacks." "More important than snacks?" said Squirrel. "What is a resolution?" Squirrel knows that New Year's Day is a great day for making resolutions! But what does it mean to make a resolution, anyway? As she makes visits around the forest she learns about New Year's resolutions and helps her friends get started on theirs. If only she can think of a resolution of her very own... View Details
Squirrels (In My Backyard)
by Lindsy J. O'Brien (Author)
When you gaze out your windows, do you ever see a squirrel flicking its tail? How about a robin with a worm dangling from its beak? The animals in our neighborhoods may be obvious or rarely seen, but they live among us and contribute to each microhabitat. In My Backyard takes a closer look at six common creatures, exploring their life cycles and habits and noting their typical interactions with human neighbors. An activity at the end of each book encourages creative expression and critical thinking as the reader is invited to further explore a key idea presented in the text. A high-interest... View Details
The Teeny Tiny Squirrel
by Jennifer Houp (Author), Lauren Jones (Illustrator)
The Teeny Tiny Squirrel is an autumnal adventure about a little squirrel who learns a valuable lesson about sharing and friendship. The engaging rhymes and whimsical watercolor illustrations will delight readers young and old! View Details
by Melanie Watt (Author), Melanie Watt (Illustrator)
Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. It's way too dangerous out there. He could encounter tarantulas, green Martians or killer bees. But in his tree, every day is the same and if danger comes along, he's well-prepared. Scaredy Squirrel's emergency kit includes antibacterial soap, Band-Aids and a parachute. Day after day he watches and waits, and waits and watches, until one day ? his worst nightmare comes true! Scaredy suddenly finds himself out of his tree, where germs, poison ivy and sharks lurk. But as Scaredy Squirrel leaps into the unknown, he discovers something really uplifting ? View Details