Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Conservation Status

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The range of red marmots is extremely fragmented. However, in Eastern Pamir, where the main populations are concentrated, settlements are distributed more continuously. In the 1960s to 1970s only 3 to 4 thousand skins were taken annually. Populations of the red marmot number about 250,000 animals in Kirgizia and about 360,000 individuals in Tadzhikistan. (Bibikov, 1996)

CITES: appendix iii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Life Cycle

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See Reproduction.

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Benefits

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Red marmots may compete for forage with domestic livestock. (Bibikov, 1996)

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Benefits

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Local populations trap M. caudata for its hide and for meat. (Bibikov, 1996)

Positive Impacts: food

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Associations

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As a prey species, the abundance of M. caudata likely affects the size of eagle populations.

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Trophic Strategy

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Marmots are primarily vegetarians, and they consume a variety of plant species. Seasonal and local differences in forage composition have been found. During feeding, a marmot moves slowly, turning its head alternately from one side to the other. From a distance animals seem to crawl on their bellies. (Bibikov, 1996)

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Distribution

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Red marmots, Marmota caudata, also know as golden or long-tailed marmots, are found in high alpine meadows of the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and Tien Shen mountains of Central Asia. In the 1960's, red marmot populations were estimated at about 600,000 including: 200,000 in the Pamirs, 170,000 in Central and Western Tien Shan, 130,000 in Alai, and 100,000 in Gissaro-Darvaze. (Bibikov, 1996)

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )

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Habitat

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Red marmots are most common in the mountain meadows which are often grazed by domestic sheep, goats, and yaks. They aso inhabit semi arid plateus and the edges of nut-forests. They are found from elevations of 1,400 to 5,500 m in the himalayan region. (Bibikov, 1996)

Range elevation: 1400 to 5500 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains

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Life Expectancy

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Although there are not data specifically relating to red marmots, other members of the genus Marmota can live between 13 and 15 years. (Nowak, 1991)

Range lifespan
Status: captivity:
13 to 15 years.

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Morphology

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Marmots are the second largest rodents (after beavers) in the Palearctic Region. The body shape and size of these animals reflect their fossorial, or partly subterranean, life. Marmots are solid and box-shaped, with the legs apart. The hind legs are shorter than the forelegs. Their bodies are streamlined and flexible, and marmots are capable of pushing their way through narrow holes. They can change direction during sharp turns. Red marmots weigh as much as 8 to 9 kg.

All four feet have five digits with sturdy, blunt claws. Pads on the digits are very well developed. These pads function to help rake up earth and compensate to some extent for the complete or partial reduction of the fifth digit. Other digits are long, flexible, and capable of holding thin plant stems.

The head of red marmots is flattened, and the neck is short. The large eyes are close to the top of the head, allowing the animal to see the terrain above ground while remaining inside the burrow. Ears are small and barely extend beyond the fur. Long wiskers are located on checks, lower jaw, around the nose, and eyes.

The skulls of marmots are distinguished from those of other sciurids by their large size, large postorbital processes, and relatively small cranium. (Bibikov, 1996)

Average mass: 8-9 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Associations

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Specific data on predation in red marmots is lacking. In general, the number of marmot predators is not great. Some animals often attack marmots, eating primarily infant animals, especially during the first weeks after their emergence when the young marmots are not experienced with predator evasion.

In mountain regions, bears often dig out marmot burrows. The main predators of Eurasian marmots are stray dogs and wolves. Marmots actively react to predator appearance from far away, emitting alarm calls, and immediately running towards their burrows. Having stopped near the hole, they allow the predator to approach closer, constantly keeping an eye on it.

As mentioned in the physical description of M. caudata, the eyes of marmots are located on top of the head, allowing them to survey the surrounding area from within their burrows. It might be supposed that this is an adaptation allowing these animals to detect and avoid predators from a safe location.

Important predators of marmots everywhere are eagles, especially the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). (Bibikov,1996)

Known Predators:

  • domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
  • bears (Ursinae)
  • gray wolves (Canis lupus)
  • golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos)
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Reproduction

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The mating system and behavior of red marmots have not been reported. However, other mountain- dwelling marmots tend to mate polygynously. There is ofen a period of courtship behavior, which may include mutual sniffing, locking teeth, or sparring. During copulation, which may occur several times per day, the male typically uses his teeth to hold the female by the skin of her neck or head.

Copulation of some mountain-dwelling marmots may occur prior to emergence from the burrow in spring. This seems to be controlled by the length of the season, with shorter summers being associated with in-burrow breeding. In some species, such as the black-capped marmot, females may not emerge from the burrow until a few days before whelping.

(Bibikov, 1996)

Mating System: polygynous

Specific data on red marmot reproduction is scanty. In general, female red marmots sexually mature around two years of age, so they do not breed until their third summer. Age of sexual maturation seems to depend on the elevation and the duration of hibernation. At lower elevations, some two year old female red marmots have successfully weaned litters.

Females give birth to and rear young in a litter burrow. Red marmots copulate in their burrows before they appear on the surface after winter hibernation. After a short gestation (30 to 35 days), the female gives birth to altricial young. Litters typically contain 4 to 5 young, but can contain up to 10. In general, within the marmots, litter size is negatively correlated with size of the neonate.

Pups have a body mass of 26 to 40 g and a body length of 7.5 to 9.6 cm. The small size of newborn marmots (about 1% of an adult's weight) is probably an adaptation to conditions of the short activity period.

(Bibikov, 1996)

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in the hibernaculum before emergence in the spring.

Average number of offspring: 4-5.

Range gestation period: 30 to 35 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

The young are born altricial, and are cared for by the mother in the nesting burrow.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care

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Long-tailed marmot

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The long-tailed marmot (Marmota caudata) or golden marmot is a marmot species in the family Sciuridae.[2] It occurs in mountainous regions in the central parts of Asia where it lives in open or lightly wooded habitats, often among rocks where dwarf junipers grow.[1][3] It is IUCN Red Listed as Least Concern.[1] As suggested by its name, it is a relatively long-tailed species of marmot.[3]

Description

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Two of its subspecies

The long-tailed marmot is a large, sturdy rodent weighing up to 9 kg (20 lb).[4] Its typical weight range is from 1.5 to 7.3 kg (3.3–16.1 lb), with the lower weights in the spring directly after hibernation and the higher weights in the autumn just before hibernation where more than one–quarter of its mass can be fat. Males average slightly larger than females. Its head-and-body length is 37–80 cm (15–31 in) and the tail is about 16–28 cm (6.3–11.0 in) long. The tail is 37–55% of the head-and-body length. This is considerably longer than typical of other marmots, although the proportionally longest-tailed individuals of the grey (M. baibacina) and alpine marmots (M. marmota) are comparable to the shortest-tailed individuals of the long-tailed marmot.[3] The eyes are close to the top of the rather-flattened head, the ears are small and the neck is short. The forelegs are longer than the hind legs.[4]

Several subspecies have been described for the long-tailed marmot, but only three are generally recognised: M. c. caudata, M. c. aurea and M. c. dichrous. The last has occasionally been considered a separate species.[2] They differ in colours and some measurements, with M. c. caudata averaging larger than the others. M. c. aurea, the subspecies found in most of its range, is relatively bright golden-buff or orange-tawny overall. Its face is brownish and the top of its head is typically brown to black, but in small parts of its range it is the same colour as its back. The tip of the tail often is blackish. M. c. caudata also has a brown face, and its flanks and underparts are yellowish, but the rear top of its head and mid-back are black, while the tail is black or mixed yellowish and black. M. c. dichrous is black-brown below, but this subspecies is dimorphic in the colour of its upperparts: they are blackish-brown to dull brown in dark animals, and light brown to cream in pale animals.[3]

Distribution and habitat

The long-tailed marmot is restricted to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, far southern Kazakhstan (where rare), Uzbekistan, northern Pakistan, northernwestern India and western China.[1][3] In China, it has only been recorded in the Tian Shan Mountains of Xinjiang.[5] Other mountain ranges where it occurs are the Pamir, Alay, Hindukush, Kunlun-Shan, Karakoram and northwestern Himalayas.[3] Although its distribution comes into contact with those of the Menzbier's (M. menzbieri), grey (M. baibacina) and Himalayan marmots (M. himalayana), they are not known to hybridise.[3]

Among its three subspecies, M. c. aurea is widespread and found in all countries where the species occurs, only being absent from the regions inhabited by the two remaining subspecies. M. c. caudata is from areas south of Chitral in Pakistan and adjacent parts of India, and M. c. dichrous is from highlands near Kabul and Ghazni in Afghanistan.[3]

Overall the long-tailed marmot has a very wide altitude range, occurring from 600 to 5,200 m (2,000–17,100 ft), but this varies extensively depending on each mountain range with the upper limit essentially restricted by the location of the permanent snow line. The only countries where it has been recorded below 2,000 m (6,600 ft) are Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but in both places it also occurs much higher. It is more tolerant of aridity than the closely related Menzbier's marmot and the more distantly related grey marmot, and where their distributions approach each other the long-tailed marmot tends to occupy drier habitats. Furthermore, where its distribution approaches that of the Menzbier's marmot the long-tailed occurs at lower altitudes from 1,300 to 2,200 m (4,300–7,200 ft).[3] The long-tailed marmot occurs in a wide range of open or lightly wooded habitats, including alpine meadows, foothill to highland steppes, semi-deserts, scrublands and open woodland (typically with junipers no more than 4 m or 13 ft high), especially in rocky areas.[1][3][5] However, it avoids places with saline soils.[5]

Ecology and behaviour

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Marmot hunted by a snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan

The long-tailed marmot usually forms monogamous relationships but lives in larger social groups, with up to seven adults sharing a single home range. These individuals are likely to be related to each other with young adults normally only dispersing after they have become fully grown at three or more years of age. Adult immigrants are tolerated in the group but only a single adult female normally lactates and rears young in any one season.[6]

Home ranges of the long-tailed marmot average about three hectares (7.5 acres) and contain about three burrow systems (range one to six). In a chamber in one of these burrows the marmots hibernate from about September to April or May, a period during which the ground is covered with snow for much of the time.[6] Different burrows may be used for hibernation in different years. Mating occurs in late April and early May and may take place underground before the marmots emerge from the burrow after the winter. The gestation period is about four and a half weeks and the litter of about four pups emerges from the nest at about six weeks of age. Only about half of the pups survive the summer, some being consumed by predators and others being killed by adult males joining the group. Most adults survive the hibernation period but a rather higher proportion of juveniles die during their first winter. Females do not usually breed as three-year-olds but wait till the following year.[6]

The long-tailed marmot is diurnal and feeds on plant material. It is most active in the morning when about 40% of the time is spent foraging. After emerging from the burrow, the marmot spreads out and do not forage as a group. Food is either collected from the ground by the mouth or plucked from taller plants. Between bouts of foraging, a marmot sometimes stands on its back legs and surveys its surroundings. Group members communicate with each other, emitting complex alarm calls when predators are spotted. They also react to alarm calls of neighbouring groups.[7]

Predators

Predators of the long-tailed marmot include the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), the grey wolf (Canis lupus), the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and possibly the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus).[7] On the Tibetan plateau, marmot species also form part of snow leopard prey.[8]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Cassola, F. (2017). "Marmota caudata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T12825A111931601. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b Thorington, R.W., Jr.; Hoffman, R.S. (2005). "Species Marmota caudata". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 801. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kryštufek, B.; B. Vohralík (2013). "Taxonomic revision of the Palaearctic rodents (Rodentia). Part 2. Sciuridae: Urocitellus, Marmota and Sciurotamias". Lynx, N. S. (Praha). 44: 27–138.
  4. ^ a b DeWeerd, B. (2003). "Marmota caudata". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Retrieved 2014-10-21.
  5. ^ a b c Smith, A.T.; Xie, Y., eds. (2008). A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. pp. 190–191. ISBN 978-0-691-09984-2.
  6. ^ a b c Blumstein, D. T.; Arnold, W. (1998). "Ecology and Social Behavior of Golden Marmots (Marmota caudata aurea)". Journal of Mammalogy. 73 (3): 873–886. doi:10.2307/1383095. JSTOR 1383095.
  7. ^ a b Blumstein, D. T. (1996). "How Much Does Social Group Size Influence Golden Marmot Vigilance?". Behaviour. 133 (15/16): 1133–1151. doi:10.1163/156853996x00332. JSTOR 4535417.
  8. ^ Lyngdoh, S., Shrotriya, S., Goyal, S.P., Clements, H., Hayward, M.W. and Habib, B. (2014). "Prey preferences of the snow leopard (Panthera uncia): regional diet specificity holds global significance for conservation". PLOS ONE. 9 (2): e88349. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...988349L. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088349. PMC 3922817. PMID 24533080.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
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Long-tailed marmot: Brief Summary

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The long-tailed marmot (Marmota caudata) or golden marmot is a marmot species in the family Sciuridae. It occurs in mountainous regions in the central parts of Asia where it lives in open or lightly wooded habitats, often among rocks where dwarf junipers grow. It is IUCN Red Listed as Least Concern. As suggested by its name, it is a relatively long-tailed species of marmot.

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