The African unstriped ground squirrel (Xerus rutilus) is widely dispersed across various habitats in East Africa and hence encounters a diverse suite of predators and plant communities. It is not known how different habitats and plant characteristics affect the foraging behaviour of X. rutilus. We used giving-up densities (GUDs) as a measure of foraging efficiency to explore the foraging costs of environmental heterogeneity. To determine foraging efficiency across spatial scales, we established food patches in two microhabitats (open and cover), which were nested within three habitats (koppie, edge and bushland). When foraging in a cover microhabitat, foraging efficiency decreased away from the koppie, but when in the open microhabitat, foraging efficiency was lowest near the koppie edge. Second, to determine foraging efficiency with common plant toxins, we presented the squirrels with seeds soaked in either tannic acid, oxalic acid or distilled water (control). Foraging efficiency did not differ between tannic-treated and control seeds, but oxalic-treated seeds had higher GUDs. Overall, our results suggest that X. rutilus is a remarkably efficient forager across multiple axes of environmental heterogeneity, which may have intriguing consequences for the ecological community.
- Foraging behaviour
- Xerus rutilus