Bruck, J.N. & Mateo, J.M. In press. How habitat features shape ground squirrel navigation. Journal of Comparative Psychology
The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether Spermophilus beldingi from areas rich in beacons perform differently in a task of spatial memory compared with animals from beacon-thin areas. To assess the role of environmental experience in spatial memory wild-born animals with several days of experience in the field were compared with animals born in a lab and with no experience in their original habitat. Over 2 summers subjects captured from beacon-dense and beacon-thin areas were tested in a radial maze interspersed with beacons, using number of trials to criterion as a measure of spatial memory. To evaluate the effect of landmark navigation, in another year juveniles were prevented from seeing outside the maze. In both years animals from beacon-dense populations reached criterion faster than animals from beacon-thin populations, and significant rearing effects were present in 1 year. Despite sex differences in adult spatial patterns, no differences were found between males and females in the maze. This demonstrates variation in the navigation strategies of young S. beldingi, and highlights the need to evaluate spatial preferences as a function of population or ecology in addition to species and sex.