January 21, 2014
(ISNS) -- The term "keystone species" was made for prairie dogs. These charismatic critters build vast underground towns across the plains, creating housing for themselves and many other animals. One of the squatters is the Western burrowing owl, a tiny insectivore that makes its home on the outskirts of prairie dog colonies.
"Mammals eavesdrop on birds, birds eavesdrop on mammals - there's a whole communication network out there, and everyone is tuned into everyone's alarm calls," said Kenneth Schmidt, a behavioral ecologist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. "There's even a non-vocalizing lizard that eavesdrops on mocking birds."