Student Research Projects

Auditory Cues that Stimulate Anti-Predatory Behaviors of Sciurus carolinensis

Student Heba Habib, '16
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology
Course Biology 489: Research in the Natural Sciences

Abstract

Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are the most frequently seen mammals on the Virginia Wesleyan campus year around. They are members of the rodent family and are found to spend most of their time on the ground and in trees foraging for food while scanning their surroundings. Previous studies examined squirrels for their anti-predator responses towards rattlesnakes and other rattling sounds (Coss and Biardi, 1997; Swaisgood et al., 2003). The aim of this study, however, is to examine squirrel anti-predator responses towards a variety of auditory sounds (call of a red-tailed hawk, squirrel alarm call, and naturally occurring sounds, such as rain) and determine the ability of squirrels to distinguish the level of danger imposed by each sound. To present the sounds to the squirrels, a waterproof wireless Bluetooth speaker (BOOM Swimmer) was used and sounds were generated using an iPhone. Squirrels tested displayed a higher physiological arousal and alertness towards the call of the red-tailed hawk than to the other two sounds by scanning the area, fleeing and hiding among branches and bushes. Thus, findings of this study suggest that gray squirrels are able to distinguish among the sounds and were more responsive to the call that imposed the highest degree of dangerousness.