Landscape Ecology

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 633–640 | Cite as

Short perceptual range and yet successful invasion of a fragmented landscape: the case of the red-bellied tree squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) in Argentina

  • Lucy J. Bridgman
  • Verónica V. Benitez
  • Maricel Graña Grilli
  • Natalia Mufato
  • Daniela Acosta
  • M. Laura Guichón


Dispersal is a key element of the invasion process for introduced species, and is influenced by landscape connectivity. The red-bellied squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) was introduced to Argentina in 1970. Suitable forest habitat for this arboreal species is highly fragmented in a rural–urban matrix, but despite this, the squirrel population has spread. Squirrels disperse into new habitat patches using connective features such as forest corridors. They may also cross gaps but up to what extent is not known. Gap crossing success is influenced by perceptual range, which is the distance from which animals can perceive suitable habitat. Perceptual range has been previously estimated for vulnerable species, but not for introduced species. We used a model relating perceptual range to body mass to predict the perceptual range of the red-bellied tree squirrel in Argentina. We then tested our prediction of 202–221 m by releasing squirrels in an unfamiliar arable field at different distances (300, 200, 100 and 20 m) from woodland habitat. We assumed that if woodland could be perceived, squirrels would orientate toward it. We estimated perceptual range to be between 20 and 100 m, considerably lower than predicted. Our results indicate that squirrels can potentially cross small habitat gaps, but dispersal over greater distances lacking connectivity is less likely. Incorporating this information when modelling the spread of exotic squirrels in the Pampas Region can yield more accurate prediction of the invasion process and guide management practices to minimise their expansion.


Dispersal Invasive rodents Landscape connectivity Orientation Translocation experiment 



We thank Dr Fernando Milesi for his valuable input and help with trapping squirrels, Cecilia Gozzi, Lucas Miranda and Laura Messetta for assistance with field trials, the Luján residents who allowed us to trap squirrels on their property, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism on the manuscript. We also thank The Natural Environment Resources Council (LJB), CONICET (VVB and MLG) and the Universidad de Luján for funding, and Capricorn Ltd. for supplying free fluorescent powder samples vital for tracking squirrel movement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucy J. Bridgman
    • 1
  • Verónica V. Benitez
    • 2
  • Maricel Graña Grilli
    • 2
  • Natalia Mufato
    • 2
  • Daniela Acosta
    • 2
  • M. Laura Guichón
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesThe University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Ecología de Mamíferos Introducidos, Departamento de Ciencias BásicasUniversidad Nacional de Luján LujanArgentina

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