Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 229–237 | Cite as

The evolution of marmot sociality: I. Why disperse late?

  • Walter Arnold 


Prolonged toleration of offspring in marmots was hypothesized to be (1) a means of preventing dispersal of undersized young (Barash 1974 a) or more generally (2) continued parental investment, increasing the probability of descendant survival and reproduction (Armitage 1981, 1987). These hypotheses are tested in this paper for one of the most social of marmot species, the alpine marmot. The animals studied lived in groups within territories defended by a dominant male and female, or as floaters lacking a well-defined home range. Offspring did not disperse before sexual maturity at age 2 (Fig. 1). Only territorial females bred, whereas territorial males were not able to monopolize reproduction likewise (Table 2). Dispersers had similar spring mass to nondispersers (Table 4). Hence, hypothesis 1 is not supported, at least not for adult-sized, > 2 years old animals. During their residency, 19% of subordinates obtained their natal territory or a neighboring one (Fig. 2). Long distance dispersal bore a high mortality risk. Thus, toleration of mature offspring could well represent parental investment. Other results, however, suggest additional influences on the timing of dispersal. (i) Males dispersed later than females (Fig. 3), possibly because of mate sharing by territorial males (see Emlen 1982). (ii) The higher mass loss of dispersers during the previous winter indicates that weak animals were forced to leave (Table 5) despite presumably lower chances of becoming territorial (Table 3). (iii) Subordinate animals which could not be the offspring of both territorials present were not more likely to disperse (Fig. 3). (iv) Lower dispersal rates when immatures lived in the group (Fig. 3) may indicate benefits from the subordinates' presence for rearing young.


Home Range Parental Investment Dominant Male Territorial Male High Mortality Risk 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter Arnold 
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für VerhaltensphysiologieAbteilung WicklerSeewiesenFederal Republic of Germany

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