Communal nesting in asocial Abert's squirrels: The role of social thermoregulation and breeding strategy

Andrew J. Edelman, John Koprowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The social thermoregulation hypothesis states that endothermic species will communally nest to reduce energy expenditures on thermoregulation. The hypothesis predicts that the frequency of communal nesting should increase with decreasing ambient temperature. The potential costs of communal nesting (e.g., increased predation risk, resource competition, cuckoldry, parasite/disease transmission, or infanticide) could decrease the frequency of communal nesting especially for asocial breeding females with dependent offspring. We examined the effects of ambient temperature and seasonal reproductive activities on the probability of communal nesting in Abert's squirrels (Sciurus aberti) in the Pinaleño Mountains, Arizona. Most squirrels nested consistently with the same partner in mixed-sex pairs. The proportion of individuals engaging in communal nesting increased with decreasing ambient temperature as predicted by the social thermoregulation hypothesis. The onset of the breeding season greatly reduced the proportion of individuals communally nesting. The negative relationship between ambient temperature and communal nesting supports the use of communal nesting in Abert's squirrels as a mechanism to reduce thermoregulatory costs during cold conditions. The abrupt drop in the frequency of communal nesting during the breeding season is likely due to female abandonment of this behavior. By avoiding communally nesting during the breeding season, females may prevent males from mating with them outside of mating chases, reduce resource competition, and protect offspring from infanticide, diseases, and parasites. Males may gain additional fitness benefits from nesting with females because familiarity with females increases dominance rank in mating activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-154
Number of pages8
JournalEthology
Volume113
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2007

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colonial breeding
Sciuridae
thermoregulation
Body Temperature Regulation
squirrels
Breeding
breeding
Infanticide
Temperature
breeding season
infanticide
Parasites
ambient temperature
Costs and Cost Analysis
parasite
temperature
Energy Metabolism
extra-pair copulation
disease transmission
familiarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this

Communal nesting in asocial Abert's squirrels : The role of social thermoregulation and breeding strategy. / Edelman, Andrew J.; Koprowski, John.

In: Ethology, Vol. 113, No. 2, 02.2007, p. 147-154.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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