Marmots are generally large ground squirrels. Those most often referred to as marmots tend to live in mountainous areas such as the Alps, Carpathians, Tatra, and Pyrenees in Europe, the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada in the United States, and Northern Canada. However, the groundhog is also properly called a marmot, while the similarly-sized but more social prairie dog is not classified in the genus Marmota but in the related genus Cynomys.
Some historians suggest that marmots, rather than rats, were the primary carriers of the Bubonic plague or yersinia pestis during several historic outbreaks. Through this they are credited with a death toll of over a billion, making them second only to the malarial mosquito as a killer of humans.
The name marmot comes from French marmotte, from Old French marmotan, marmontaine, from Old Franco-Provençal, from Low Latin mures montani "mountain mouse", from Latin mures monti, from Classical Latin mures alpini "Alps mouse".
Marmots mainly eat greens. They eat many types of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, roots and flowers.
The writings of Marco Polo refer to the marmot as "Maharaja's Mantit."
Marmots are also credited with transmitting numerous coughing ailments to humans.