Robin, A. N. (2016). To Save or Spend? The Cache Decision in Fox Squirrels (pp. 1–26).

Abstract

Food-storing species, such as tree squirrels, face a complex series of decisions when harvesting and storing seeds for future consumption. The process by which an individual animal decides to eat or cache a given food item within a foraging session is not fully understood. Understanding the factors involved in the apportionment of time and energy to storing or eating a single food item is a significant piece to solving this puzzle. In the present study, we examined the effect of temporal context on the eat versus cache decision in free-ranging fox squirrels (Sciurus niger). We asked if the time of day had an effect on a squirrel’s decision to cache a food item, using a series of 30 peanuts. This procedure was replicated in the winter and the summer in order to examine the effects of season. We found that this eat versus cache decision was influenced both by the time of day at which the item was encountered and by the number of items already processed in that foraging session. Results of the seasonal replication suggest that the seasons of winter and summer may not play as strong of a role in the eat versus cache decision as the time of day and number of previously encountered items.