Actes du symposium Marmota 1991

Marmots (Marmota spp.) are large, ground-dwelling squirrels living primarily in mountain environments in Eurasia and North America, but one species, M. monax, occupies low elevation meadows and forest edges and M. bobac prefers the open steppe where it apparently is the ecological equivalent of the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) of the North American prairie. Because marmots are diurnal, occupy burrows, and usually live in groups, they can be readily located, live-trapped, individually marked, and observed. Thus, social interactions among individuals of known age, sex, and kinship can be determined. These attributes of marmot biology make possible the analysis of the role of kin selection in evolution and the determination of the relative significance of direct and indirect selection in marmot species with different social organizations.

Life-history traits, such as age of dispersal, litter size, and age of first reproduction, vary among marmot Species, thus providing excellent opportunities to relale lif'e-history variation to habitat, food resources, and body size. We know too little about the food habits of marmots and how food resources affect social structure and population dynamics. The recognized 14 species of marmots provide the diversity necessary for conducting comparative studies to establish the relative importance (both within and among species) of ecological, behavioral, and demographic characters in determining the life-time reproductive success of individual males and females.

The significance of parasitism to group size and function is poorly known. Marmots harbor parasites; some, such as plague, are important to humans. Marmot social biology provides a means of determining the relative importance of parasitism to survival and reproduction of groups of different sizes. All marmot species hibernate; we are beginning to learn the energetic costs of hibernation and how those costs affect social evolution. The requirement of hibernation imposes physiological constraints on all marmot species; those constraints limit the capacity of marmots to occupy different habitats. Determining those constraints and the degree to which they are quantitatively modified in marmot populations occupying different environments allows us to study the evolution of physiological adaptation.

Marmots are intrinsic to many human cultures; they are part of folklore, they provide opportunities for observing wildlife, and they are exploited for food and fur. The conditions that allow marmots to flourish and the programs needed to protect marmots from over-exploitation are of critical concern. The conservati
Kenneth B. Armitage (University of Kansas)

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