Squirrels are obligate scatter-hoarding mammals, meaning they bury their food items in disparate locations. Early work by Dr. Lucia Jacobs proved that the squirrels rely on memory (rather than olfaction, or random search) to find their buried caches. This spectacular memory feat has been a fascination of the lab ever since, and we are currently exploring how squirrels use the space around them to aid in their memory.
But squirrels don’t cache all their nuts. In fact, they make differential decisions based on the season, their own hunger levels, and – interestingly – the type of nut. Hazelnuts seem to be more frequently cached than peanuts. We are currently conducting research to help tease apart their methods and mechanisms of caching decisions.