Rattle calls as individual identifiers in the North American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Our research focused on the underlying function of the red squirrel rattle call as a form of individual identification for nearby territorial listeners. These calls are produced by squirrels periodically when another is trespassing within the territory or in response to another rattle. We examined whether the call was produced more often within an individuals territory boundary (indicating a territorial function) or if the call reflects self identification for listeners and thus was produced anywhere the squirrel may be (within or outside of the territory). Individual squirrels were trapped and released, at Whitemud Creek, in various locations both within and outside of territory boundaries. Upon release squirrels were monitored for 10 minutes and all rattle vocalizations were recorded. Results indicate that squirrels reliably produced calls, within 10 minutes of release, both within and outside of their territory. These results suggest that the rattle call may function as a form of self identification and not predominantly as an aggressive territorial call.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Shannon Digweed
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