Visual sensitivity of ground squirrels to spatial and temporal luminance variations

Gerald H. Jacobs, Barbara Blakeslee, Mark E. McCourt, R. B.H. Tootell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


We have investigated the visual sensitivity of the California ground squirrel (Speromphilus beecheyi) to spatial and temporal luminance patterns. Spatial contrast sensitivity functions were determined in behavioral discrimination experiments in which the stimuli were sinusoidally-modulated luminance gratings. These squirrels were found to be maximally sensitive to spatial frequencies of about 0.7 cycles/ degree (c/d), and they are unable to discriminate gratings whose frequencies exceed 4 c/d. Similar results were obtained in electrophysiological experiments when the visually evoked cortical potential (VECP) was recorded from anesthetized squirrels. A third experiment involved tests of the ability of ground squirrels to discriminate square-wave gratings of much higher luminance (340 cd/m2). The finest gratings which were discriminable at this luminance level did not exceed 3.9-4.3 c/d and, thus, we conclude that the maximal spatial resolution of the California ground squirrel is about 4 c/d (corresponding to a bar separation of 7.5′). In another behavioral experiment the abilities of ground squirrels to discriminate sinusoidally flickering lights (mean luminance = 3.4 cd/m2) was measured. The results show that ground squirrels are maximally sensitive to lights flickering at a rate of about 18 Hz, and that the highest rates that are still discriminable are slightly above 60 Hz.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-299
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology □ A
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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