Definitions

marmot

marmot

[mahr-muht]
marmot, ground-living rodent of the genus Marmota, of the squirrel family, closely related to the ground squirrel, prairie dog, and chipmunk. Marmots are found in Eurasia and North America; the best-known North American marmot is the woodchuck, M. monax, of Canada and the E United States. Marmots inhabit plains or open country in mountainous regions. They live in burrows (some species in large colonies). They hibernate during the winter and mate immediately thereafter. Active during the day, they feed chiefly on grasses and other green plants. Marmots have stout bodies, rounded ears, and powerful digging claws. They can sit upright. They vary in length from 15 to 25 in. (38-64 cm), excluding 5- to 12-in. (16- to 30-cm) bushy tails. The coarse fur, which is usually brown on the upper parts, is often tipped with white. The yellow-bellied marmot, M. flaviventris, is found in W North America from S Canada to New Mexico. The hoary marmot, M. caligata, also called whistler from its shrill warning call, is found in Siberia and from Alaska S to Idaho. A colonial animal, it lives in mountains above the timberline. Largest of the marmots, it is also distinguished by its pale yellow-gray fur and black and white head. The Alpine marmot, M. marmota, lives below the snow level in the Alps. The bobac, M. bobak, is a marmot found in mountains from E Europe through central Asia. It is hunted for its flesh by the Mongols, and its fur is used as imitation marten. Marmots are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Sciuridae.

Marmots are members of the genus Marmota, in the rodent family Sciuridae (squirrels).

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.

Marmots typically live in burrows, and hibernate there through the winter. Most marmots are highly social, and use loud whistles to communicate with one another, especially when alarmed.

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.

Species

The following is a list of all Marmota species recognized by Thorington and Hoffman (2005). They divide marmots into two subgenera.

Examples of species

References

  • Thorington, R. W. Jr. and R. S. Hoffman. 2005. Family Sciuridae. Pp. 754-818 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

External links

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