Holarctic Marmots as a factor of Biodiversity.
Rumiantsev V.Yu;, Nikol'skii A.A. & Brandler O.V. eds.,
Abstracts, 3d Conference on Marmots (Cheboksary, Russia, 25-30 August 1997),
Moscow ABF 1997, 216p. : 198-199.


V.A. Tokarsky, A.F. Bartenev

Kharkov State University, Kharkov, Ukraine

Found by us and unknown till now the article by honoured Professor of Zoology of Kharkov Nature Testers Society, Alexander Vikentievich Chernay, has great historical value.

The discovered manuscript which is more than 100 years old consists of 22 sheets of big size thik paper binded in the way of thik card-board. There is no inscriptions either on the cover or on the back. On the title-page there is the phrase written:"Description of animals under the name of souslics or marmots". Below the title there is the motto: "The closest acquantance with the marmots' nature can rather point to the means how to eliminate the damage done by them". Besides on the title-page there are registration marks: incoming number - "  A 751 and the date of registration in the Scientific Committee of the State property Ministry - 1853, October 8.

The manuscript is provided with pictures: "The map of South Russia with distribution of souslic species indices" and pictures depicting the steppe marmot and souslics.

The great part of observations described in the article involved is the result of the author's investigations carried out in South Russia in 1845, 1846, 1848-53 years. In connection with the fact the manuscript was not published anywhere we dive some fragments of the article about the steppe marmot.
The author noted that "... the steppe marmot is 2 feets long, the belly is lighter than the back and the sides; the back is yellow-red or brown, sometimes but very rarely black, the ears are small, covered with grey-white hair and with edging; the foot of the hind paws is hollow up to the heel, the tail is shorter than a quarter of body length, the skin under the hair is scaly and has brown-black colour. The steppe marmot was encounted more frequent in South Russia than nowdays. Boplan (1660) mentioned about abundant distribution of the steppe marmot between the rivers Soula and Soupoi. Pallas (1778) said that the steppe marmot occupied separate areas in South Russia between the Dnieper and the Don rivers. Georgy (1800) named New and Small Russia, the Don, Khopior and Medveditsa rivers, environs of Voronezh and Tambov to the latitude 55o N as the places where the marmot could be found. Guldenshtadt (1791) watched them along the river Sem near Baturin and Nezhin in Lubensk district.

According to Rzachynski (1721), the steppe marmots were found in Podolskaya province, and Kalinichenko (1839) encounted them near Aleksandrovsk. Nowdays they are met very rarely, they can be found in Konstantinovskii district,in Volchanskii district near Burluk, in Zmievskoy district, in ravines along the river Bereka, on the swell near "red tavern" in Korostovtsev. As Professor Eversmann (1850) says, a great number of the marmots is encounted in the woodless steppe foothills of the Urals, from latitude 54-50o N along the whole mountain range of the Obschyi Syrt, in the Northern part of Orenburg province, in the southern part of Kazanskaya province, in Simbirskaya province to the village Bouinsk and in Saratov province.

... The steppe marmot lives on the hilly soil neighbouring stony rock layer, sometimes on the soil with lime-stone or clay covered with luxurant but treeless vegetation, also the marmot likes deep chernosem (black soil) ...

... The steppe marmot feeds on the grass and roots of the following plant genus: Polygonum, Atriplex, Chenopodium, Plantago, Millefolium, Serpillum, Blitum virgatum (marmot' berries); the marmit doesn't make any stockfor winter; it never eats meat. The depth of the marmot's burrows is 2 m and mor, its direction is indirect and steeply sloping approximately at an angle of 50o. The ground thrown from the burrow form small hills near the openings. These hills are noticeable besides the grass near the animal's burrows are very luxiriant and high due to animals manure. Sometimes there are 5 or 6 burrows in the same hillock which is 2-4 m long. The entrance into the burrow falls into one or many hollows which are separated into cells. In august or early September the animals leave their burrows very rarely and since the second half of September they don't appear outside at all, even if the weather is warm. Before hibernation the steppe marmot is raid to eat drasses which evacuate the bowels and thisprevents from constipation. In spring in the middle of March (though there is a lot of snow) the marmots start appearing from their burrows. Females have about 4 babies. Marmots live with families in burrows, in summer especially in the evening they gather in 3-6 infront of the burrows and sitting on the hind paws hung down. Sounding they wag with their tails. Each family consists of the animals of different size. Marmot's whistle is very sonorous ...

... The marmots, being very limited in its distribution, should be viewed as absolutely harmless for the crops when it moves away from its habitat. But occupying meadows the marmot tramples down the grass when it makes wide paths and spoils plain surface of steppe when it builds hills of considerable height. But the damage done by marmots is so unimportant that it is belived there is no need to destroy marmots, otherwise people worry about how to prevent marmot's becoming extinct as it happened in some areas where there was an abundance of the animal before, e.g. in the village Chernyavskoye of Konstantinovski district ...

... The marmot which has much in common with the souslic is vanishing. In Ekaterinburgskaya province along the river Dnieper marmot's bones are found fossilized ...

At present the manuscript by A.V. Chernay is being kept in Historical Museum of Kharkov University.

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