Advertisement

Picking the right cache: caching site selection for egg predators in the arctic

  • Claire-Cécile Juhasz
  • Ambroise Lycke
  • Vincent Careau
  • Gilles Gauthier
  • Jean-François Giroux
  • Nicolas Lecomte
Original Paper

Abstract

Food hoarding is often considered an adaptive behaviour to extend the period of availability of food resources. Finding the right caching site for storage and retrieval is of paramount importance, yet how caching sites are selected is poorly known. Here, we examine site selection for egg caching by a tundra predator, the arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus, which can overcome large seasonal prey variations by extensive caching. During the short arctic summer, colonial breeding birds like geese produce in a short time period many eggs, which provide a large quantity of predictable resources for consumption and caching. We predicted that foxes would select caching sites with specific characteristics, such as shallow permafrost, and tall hummocks (small mounds in tundra landscapes, which should facilitate caching and provide visual cues for subsequent retrieval). We sampled the main physical characteristics of 48 caches and paired random sites inside a Greater Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) colony. Our study shows that foxes favour cache sites characterized by hummocks nearly twice as higher than at nearby random sites. The depth of the active layer of permafrost did not influence cache site selection. Foxes may select tundra features that possibly enhance caching efficiency and retrieval probability. Our study elucidates one aspect of food hoarding behaviour in extreme habitats characterized by strong variations of resource availability.

Keywords

Habitat selection Food storage Hoarding Predator Arctic fox 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Funding was provided by grants from the Canada Research Chair program to Nicolas Lecomte; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to Gilles Gauthier, Nicolas Lecomte, and J.-F. Giroux; the Arctic Goose Joint Venture (Canadian Wildlife Service), ArcticNet, the Université de Moncton, and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Logistic support was generously provided by the Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP). The authors thank all the people who participated in the fieldwork. The author are indebted to the Hunters and Trappers Association of Pond Inlet and to Parks Canada for allowing us to work on Bylot Island. The authors thank François Rousseu, Pauline Toni and Daniel Garrett for their helpful comments on previous drafts of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in this study, which involves animals, were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Supplementary material

300_2018_2358_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (45 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 44 kb)
300_2018_2358_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (45 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 45 kb)

References

  1. Andersson M, Krebs J (1978) On the evolution of hoarding behaviour. Anim Behav 26:707–711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Braestrup FW (1941) A study on the arctic fox in Greenland: immigration, fluctuations in numbers based mainly on trading statistics. Reitzel, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  3. Careau V, Giroux JF, Berteaux D (2007) Cache and carry: hoarding behavior of arctic fox. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 62:87–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Careau V, Giroux JF, Gauthier G, Berteaux D (2008a) Surviving on cached foods: the energetics of egg-caching by arctic foxes. Can J Zool 86:1217–1223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Careau V, Lecomte N, Bêty J et al (2008b) Hoarding of pulsed resources: temporal variations in egg-caching by arctic fox. Ecoscience 15:268–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clarkson K, Eden SF, Sutherland WJ, Houston AI (1986) Density dependence and magpie food hoarding. J Anim Ecol 55:111–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Frafjord K (1993) Food habits of arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) on the western coast of Svalbard. Arctic 46:49–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gauthier G, Rochefort L, Reed A (1996) The exploitation of wetland ecosystems by herbivores on Bylot Island. Geosci Can 23:253–259Google Scholar
  9. Gauthier G, Bêty J, Giroux JF, Rochefort L (2004) Trophic interactions in a high arctic snow goose colony. Integr Comp Biol 44:119–129CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Gould KL, Kelly DM, Kamil AC (2010) What scatter-hoarding animals have taught us about small-scale navigation. Philos Trans R Soc B 365:901–914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ims RA, Fuglei E (2005) Trophic interaction cycles in tundra ecosystems and the impact of climate change. Bioscience 55:311–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jacobs LF, Liman ER (1991) Grey squirrels remember the locations of buried nuts. Anim Behav 41:103–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jenkins SH, Peters RA (1992) Spatial patterns of food storage by Merriam’s kangaroo rats. Behav Ecol 3:60–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jianzhang M, Cheng Z, Qingming W et al (2006) Hoarding habitat selection of squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) in Liangshui nature reserve, China. Acta Ecol Sin 26:3542–3548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lecomte N, Careau V, Gauthier G, Giroux JF (2008) Predator behaviour and predation risk in the heterogeneous arctic environment. J Anim Ecol 77:439–447CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Lewis AR (1980) Patch by gray squirrels and optimal foraging. Ecology 61:1371–1379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. MacDonald DW (1976) Food cached by red foxes and some other carnivores. Z Tierpsychol 42:170–185CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Mowbray TB, Cooke F, Ganter B (2000) Snow goose (Chen caerulescens). IOP Publishing Birds of North America. https://birdsna.org/SpeciesAccount/bna/species/snogoo/introdu-ction. Accessed 22 March 2018
  19. Mueller HC (1974) Food caching behaviour in the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). Z Tierpsychol 34:105–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Murie A (1936) Following fox trails. J Mammal 18:1–45Google Scholar
  21. R Core Team (2017) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0. http://www.R-project.org
  22. Reichman OJ (1988) Caching behaviour by eastern woodrats, Neotoma floridana, in relation to food perishability. Anim Behav 36:1525–1532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Samelius G, Alisauskas RT, Hobson KA, Larivière S (2007) Prolonging the arctic pulse: long-term exploitation of cached eggs by arctic foxes when lemmings are scarce. J Anim Ecol 76:873–880CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Scott TG (1943) Some food coactions of the northern plains red fox. Ecol Monogr 13:427–479CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sharp RP (1942) Soil structures in the St. Elias Range, Yukon territory. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Smith CC, Reichman OJ (1984) The evolution of food caching by birds and mammals. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 15:329–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Smulders TV, Gould KL, Leaver LA (2010) Using ecology to guide the study of cognitive and neural mechanisms of different aspects of spatial memory in food-hoarding animals. Philos Trans R Soc B 365:883–900CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Steele MA, Hadj-Chikh LZ, Hazeltine J (1996) Caching and feeding decisions by Sciurus carolinensis: responses to weevil-infested acorns. J Mammal 77:305–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Steele MA, Manierre S, Genna T et al (2006) The innate basis of food-hoarding decisions in grey squirrels: evidence for behavioural adaptations to the oaks. Anim Behav 71:155–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stefansson V (1923) Länder der Zukunft. Brockhaus, LeipzigGoogle Scholar
  31. Stickney A (1991) Seasonal patterns of prey availability and the foraging behavior of arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) in a waterfowl nesting area. Can J Zool 69:2853–2859CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tarnocai C, Zoltai SC (1988) Wetlands of arctic Canada. Wetlands of Canada. Polyscience Publications Inc., Montreal, pp 29–53Google Scholar
  33. Vander Wall SB (1990) Food hoarding in animals. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  34. Vander Wall SB (2000) The influence of environmental conditions on cache recovery and cache pilferage by yellow pine chipmunks (Tamias amoenus) and deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus). Behav Ecol 11:544–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canada Research Chair in Polar and Boreal Ecology and Centre d’Études NordiquesUniversity of MonctonMonctonCanada
  2. 2.Institut de recherche sur les forêtsUniversité du Québec en Abitibi-TémiscamingueQuébecCanada
  3. 3.Canada Research Chair in Functional Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Département de biologie et Centre d’Études NordiquesUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  5. 5.Département des sciences biologiquesUniversité du Québec à MontréalQuébecCanada

Personalised recommendations