Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate change causes larger, more plentiful marmots, study shows; Implications for many creatures that hibernate

Date:
July 22, 2010
Source:
University of Kansas
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that changes in seasonal timing can increase body weight and population size simultaneously in a species -- findings likely to have implications for a host of other creatures, especially those that hibernate.

This is a yearling yellow-bellied marmot.
Credit: Arpat Ozgul

Results from a decades-long research project show that mountain rodents called marmots are growing larger, healthier and more plentiful in response to climate change.

The groundbreaking study, published in Nature, is the first to reveal that changes in seasonal timing can increase body weight and population size simultaneously in a species -- findings likely to have implications for a host of other creatures, especially those that hibernate.

Established by Kenneth Armitage, KU professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, the long-standing investigation tracks yellow-bellied marmots in Colorado.

"We started this research in 1962, and every summer we'd record basic demography such as the age of the animals, gender, body mass, who survived and who reproduced," Armitage said. "At the time we started, we had no idea that climate change was going to be a problem. But we collected that basic demography to use as a foundation for other kinds of study."

Largely because of the KU researcher, yellow-bellied marmots have proven to be a valuable model organism for understanding larger questions. Armitage said that he first chose to study the marmot because it lives in easy-to-find burrows and is active in the daytime, so it is readily observable.

"I didn't intend to spend 40 years studying marmots, but new questions kept coming up -- physiological, hibernation, genetics and so on," Armitage said. "It turned out that long-term studies of our kind are quite rare. Yet, it's precisely the kind of data that you need to determine what climate change is going to do."

The climate-change findings result from collaboration between a number of international researchers who used fieldwork by Armitage to underpin their analyses. Both Arpat Ozgul, lead author of the study from Imperial College London, and Dan Blumstein, a co-author from the University of California-Los Angeles, previously have worked with Armitage on the marmot project.

Using data collected between 1976 and 2008, the authors conclude that a longer growing season has boosted marmots' individual size, overall strength and general population. The average weight of fully grown marmots jumped from 6.82 pounds in the early years of the study to 7.56 pounds in the later half of the study.

Additionally, the population growth of marmots increased from 0.56 marmots per year from 1976 to 2001 to 14.2 marmots per year from 2001 to 2008.

"The warming results in earlier snowmelt, which means that plants appear sooner and the marmots come out of hibernation earlier," said Armitage. "They have more fat left which provides them energy to start foraging. Then they can start reproducing so their young are born earlier and have time to get fat enough to survive hibernation. Most importantly, the reproductive female can survive better. Being able to wean her young earlier, she has a longer season and survival of adult females has increased over the last years."

Although Armitage is happy to see the yellow-bellied marmot thrive, the KU researcher cautioned that the boom in marmots is temporary; he expects that warming could harm them in the long run because of changes in snow patterns.

"This benefit to marmots is probably short-lived," he said. "Snow patterns both benefit and harm marmots. Prolonged snow cover in the spring increases mortality and reduces reproduction. But if there's less snowmelt to nourish plants that marmots forage in the summer, it will severely affect them. In droughts, we've had very high mortality."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Kansas. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Arpat Ozgul, Dylan Z. Childs, Madan K. Oli, Kenneth B. Armitage, Daniel T. Blumstein, Lucretia E. Olson, Shripad Tuljapurkar, Tim Coulson. Coupled dynamics of body mass and population growth in response to environmental change. Nature, 2010; 466 (7305): 482 DOI: 10.1038/nature09210

Cite This Page:

University of Kansas. "Climate change causes larger, more plentiful marmots, study shows; Implications for many creatures that hibernate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721132641.htm>.
University of Kansas. (2010, July 22). Climate change causes larger, more plentiful marmots, study shows; Implications for many creatures that hibernate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721132641.htm
University of Kansas. "Climate change causes larger, more plentiful marmots, study shows; Implications for many creatures that hibernate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721132641.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins