Sociality of Columbian ground squirrels in relation to their seasonal energy intake

Mark E. Ritchie, Gary E. Belovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Seasonal energy intake was estimated for ten populations of Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus) in northwestern Montana. We calculated daily energy intake for an average ground squirrel in each population using measurements of feeding time, consumption rates of different vegetation types (monocots vs. dicots), and the proportion of monocots and dicots in the diet. These daily energy intakes were multiplied by the length of the plant growing season for each population to estimate seasonal energy intake, i.e. over the ground squirrel active season. Amicable interaction rates measured for each population varied with seasonal energy intake, but not with environmental heterogeneity, sex ratio, or the ratio of adults to juveniles. In particular, amicable interactions among adult-juvenile and juvenile-juvenile pairs increased as seasonal energy intake decreased. The proportion of females breeding as yearlings increased as seasonal energy intake increased. This suggests that "harsh" environments reduce the energy available for juvenile growth and development, leading to delayed dispersal and age at first reproduction. These responses may promote the formation of kin groups and increased amicable interactions within those groups. The length of the plant growing season may determine environmental "harshness" across elevational gradients, but at a particular elevation, "harshness" may depend on factors determining daily food intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-503
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Amicable interactions
  • Energy intake
  • Ground squirrels
  • Plant growing season
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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