7 Pages

Squirrel Foraging Behavior

Fitness problems are often best solved by the acquisition and intelligent use of information. A territorial bird avoids endless struggle by rec­ ognizing its neighbor’s song and letting past boundary resolutions stand (Godard, 1991). Just as commonly, cognitive adaptations open doors for evolutionary creativity. For example, the evolution of burrowing for shelter from extremes of weather, for refuge from predators, and for the rearing of young has occurred inde­ pendently in several taxa. Easily overlooked is that a burrow, which is costly to make, loses all of its value if it has to be redug wherever an animal finds itself. Thus, a burrow’s value de­ pends almost entirely on relocating it, a strictly cognitive adaptation. Although selected to solve a single problem, spatial localization is a gen­ eral-purpose cognitive skill that can be pressed into the service of practically every other activ­ ity: mating, territorial defense, escape from predators, and foraging.