Franklin’s ground squirrel (Poliocitellus franklinii) social distancing: home range size and overlap of a relatively asocial ground squirrel

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Zumdahl, Kristen
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Sociality among the ground-dwelling squirrels has been well researched via studies exploring life history traits, the formation of groups and how cooperation contributes to the success of these social species. The evaluation of socio-spatial organization, and in particular, kin-differential associations among individuals, can provide insight into the adaptive basis of coloniality and altruism among conspecifics. Relatively asocial Franklin’s ground squirrels (Poliocitellus franklinii) discriminate kin from non-kin in the absence of any broader level of social discrimination, which, based on comparative analyses, may be ancestral to more advanced and inclusive expressions of sociality. In populations of Franklin’s ground squirrels near Delta Marsh, Manitoba, Canada, spatial data were gathered to monitor home range and core area size and overlap across the annual reproductive cycle (gestation, lactation and post-weaning) of adult and yearling males and females both with close-kin (defined as known mother-offspring pairs or sibling pairs) and non-close-kin. Nest locations of lactating females were documented as well to test for differences in dispersion and relocation patterns among close- versus non-close-kin. Sex, age and kinship did not affect home range and core area size, which varied extensively across the different stages of the annual reproductive cycle. The degree of home range and core area overlap throughout the overall active season was not significantly affected by sex, age or kinship. Further, lactating females did not cluster nests with close-kin during lactation, and tended to move nests away from close-kin as lactation progressed. Taken together, the absence of preferential association with kin in above-ground space use and nest dispersion suggest that space use of Franklin’s ground squirrels is not predicated on kinship. These findings also suggest that members of this Franklin’s ground squirrel population are relatively asocial based on limited overlap within the 50% core area among conspecifics.
Franklin’s ground squirrel, home range, overlap, sociality, space use, socio-spatial organization, natal philopatry, home range, nest dispersion, sociality, kin discrimination, kin cluster