The adaptive nature of the social system and behavior in the eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus

Summary

  1. 1.

    The social system and behavior of a population of Tamias striatus were studied from October 1973 to November 1976 on a 5-ha woodlot in southeastern Ohio. The basic social unit is the solitary individual occupying a single burrow system, but a more complex social unit consisting of mother and litter persists briefly until emergence and dispersal of the litter from the natal burrow site. Burrow systems are distributed in a regular pattern and are surrounded by nonoverlapping core areas which are defended throughout the year by adults and seldom by subadults or juveniles. Defense of home sites has evolved as a mechanism to insure individuals an adequate share of a seasonal food supply. Two other spacing mechanisms occur in the annual cycle: defense of individual distances and relative dominance hierarchies. Rare instances of aggressive behavior in juveniles and subadults are examples of defense of individual distance. Relative dominance hierarchies form among adult males participating in a mating bout in core areas of estrous females. Brief pairing and multiple mating occur during a single mating bout.

  2. 2.

    Time budgets vary with sex and age class and also due to temporal, spatial, and social factors. The adaptiveness of differential time budgets resulting from the effects of these factors is discussed. Individual behavioral profiles are related to successful defense of home sites and reproductive fitness. Unaggressive adults are never or rarely territorial and do not mate, but extreme aggressiveness may be disadvantageous under certain circumstances. The ontogeny of aggressive behavior is discussed and factors selecting against precocious aggressiveness and sexual behavior are suggested.

  3. 3.

    The social system and behavior are major determinants of population dynamics and spatial distribution. Territoriality acts to regulate population density and partially determines the pattern of dispersion. Dispersing juveniles are forced into vacant areas, marginal habitats, or distant areas from birth sites by aggressive behavior in residents. Extrinsic factors which regulate density and determine spatial distribution include food resources and predation. The social system and behavior typifies that of a mammalian species adapted to a dispersed, solitary way of life.

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Yahner, R.H. The adaptive nature of the social system and behavior in the eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus . Behav Ecol Sociobiol 3, 397–427 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00303202

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Keywords

  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Core Area
  • Time Budget
  • Social Unit
  • Burrow System