Caching behavior by eastern woodrats (Neotoma floridana ) in relation to food perishability

TitleCaching behavior by eastern woodrats (Neotoma floridana ) in relation to food perishability
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1988
AuthorsReichman, OJ
JournalAnimal Behavior
Pagination1525 -1532
Accession NumberKNZ00201

Two experiments were conducted on eastern woodrats to determine whether the preference for food items gathered for their caches and the sequence of use of items in the cache varied with perishability. In the first experiment, woodrats were given either 2 kg each of two non- perishable items, laboratory chow and bur oak acorns (which they used more than chow), or 2 kg each of preferred, but perishable, grapes and the non-perishable chow. As hypothesized, the woodrats both ate and stored acorns when they were paired with chow (there would be no advantage to either eating or storing the less-used chow). In contrast, when given grapes and chow, the woodrats continued to eat grapes but stored primarily chow. That is, the utility of the items appeared to change depending on whether they were to be eaten or stored. In the second experiment, woodrats were given excess amounts of chow or grapes that were 2, 4, 6, and 8 days old. They ingested chow in the proportions available, as the chow did not spoil with age. However, they consumed grapes in proportions significantly different from those available. It was anticipated that they would eat the oldest grapes first and store the freshest grapes, but neither this pattern nor any other was obvious in relation to the age of the grapes. The results suggest that woodrats discriminate between food items based on their perishability, and vary their decisions about what to ingest and store accordingly