Great Basin Naturalist


Abert's squirrel is a forest-dwelling mammal, dependent upon ponderosa pine, that now ranges from southern Wyoming to northern Mexico. During the late Pleistocene, ponderosa pine and this squirrel occurred no further north than central Arizona and New Mexico. In consequence, the present range of the squirrel north of the 36th parallel must have been the result of post-Pleistocene (Holocene) dispersal. If such dispersal took place after the fragmentation of the northern montane conifer forest, at least some leakage across barriers of unsuitable (non-ponderosa pine) habitat must have occurred. Dispersal following transplanting "experiments" has shown that such barriers can be crossed; other evidence is provided that suggests this may occur sufficiently often to produce significant changes in distribution within short periods of time. Thus, explanations for the distribution of Abert's squirrel, based only on historical legacy and local extinctions, are found to be insufficient. An alternative explanation is proposed in which post-Pleistocene dispersal also plays an important role.