We examined food items cached by arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii) from boreal-steppe meadows of southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. Caches recovered from two sites are dominated by fruits and seeds of either northern comandra (Geocaulon lividum) or prickly rose (Rosa acicularis). These two taxa are relatively rare in the local flora at the study sites (Site 1: ≥32 available taxa, and Site 2: ≥39 available taxa), suggesting they are selectively cached as preferred items. Cache selectivity may be related to perishability, fruit size/seed abundance, and predation risk. These caches are of significantly different composition than caches from present tundra sites and Pleistocene fossil arctic ground squirrel nests and caches (middens) recovered from central Yukon. These findings suggest that although arctic ground squirrels evolved in open tundra, they can subsist on a variety of cache items and may have the ability to adapt to and select a profitable cache within a variety of boreal and tundra habitats.
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Vol. 38 • No. 4