Biodiversity Data Journal | 2019
The role of ant nests in European ground squirrel’s (Spermophilus citellus) post-reintroduction adaptation in two Bulgarian mountains
Abstract The European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) is a vulnerable species, whose populations are declining throughout its entire range in Central and South-Eastern Europe. To a great extent, its conservation depends on habitat restoration, maintenance and protection. In order to improve the conservation status of the species, reintroductions are increasingly applied. Therefore, researchers focus their attention on factors that facilitate these activities and contribute to their success. In addition to the well-known factors like grass height and exposition, others, related to the underground characteristics, are more difficult to evaluate. The presence of other digging species could help this evaluation. Here, we present two reintroduced ground squirrel colonies, where the vast majority of the burrows are located in the base of anthills, mainly of yellow meadow ant (Lasius flavus). This interspecies relationship offers numerous advantages for the ground squirrel and is mostly neutral for the ants. The benefits for the ground squirrel, including reduced energy demand for digging, as well as additional surveillance and hiding places available, could greatly enhance the post-reintroduction adaptation process.