Alpine marmot

Published: 22nd January 2010
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The Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) is a widespread, especially in the alpine rodent. It is is the largest rodent occurring in Europe after the beaver. Young animals of the alpine marmot usually reach sexual maturity in their third year and then leave earlier than their family unit. Because of this late migration of the young, marmots live together in social groups, which may include up to 20 individuals.

Alpine marmots are typical representatives of an Ice Age fauna, which were found during the Pleistocene and in the European lowlands. Today, they are limited in their distribution. A six to seven months-long winter sleep allows them to settle in these inhospitable regions. During hibernation they live exclusively on the body's own fat reserves.

Between male and female Alpine marmots, there is no noticeable difference, which allows for field observations that distinguish the sexes from each other. Males tend to be slightly larger and heavier.

The animals have a head-body length of about forty to fifty centimeters. The tail length is ten to twenty centimeters. The weight varies within the annual sequence. Healthy, adult males, but weigh less than three kilograms. The weight of the females slightly less.

The head is blackish and gray with bright muzzle. The ears are small and hairy. The coat consists of thick, long hair and a heavy undercoat of shorter, slightly wavy hair. The coat color is generally very variable. The back can be slate gray, brown or reddish brown, the underside of the body is usually more yellowish. Occasionally individuals come up with a blackish-looking skin. The fur is changed once a year. For most individuals this Fellwechseln takes place in June.

One striking feature of the physique of the Alpine marmot is a muscular and strong shoulder girdle and the grave marked paws. The front legs are slightly shorter than the hind legs. The forefeet have four toes, the hind feet against five. Alpine marmots are plantigrade their feet have well-trained in bales and are hairless.

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