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Habitat preferences in gray marmots (Marmota baibacina)

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We examined habitat preferences of the Southern Altai subspecies of gray marmots (Marmota baibacina baibacina) both at the small and large scale. Considerable differences in habitat use among the gray marmot (sub)species complex have been described; Marmota kastschenkoi possibly represents the only forest-dwelling Palearctic marmot. Our results show that habitat use in Southern Altai marmots is determined mainly by vegetation type. The Altai marmots preferred grasslands and shrublands and their distribution was limited to the alpine zone above timberline. Marmots clearly avoided woodlands, even the forest edges and forest-steppe areas with a tree cover greater than 10 %. Gray marmots occur rarely in habitats occupied by alpine pikas, whereas presence of ground squirrels had no effect on marmot distribution. Altai marmots preferred mesic habitats with permeable subsoil layers. Livestock grazing and human disturbance did not affect marmot occurrence. Habitat requirements of examined Altai subspecies M. baibacina baibacina differ from the forest-steppe M. kastschenkoi; nevertheless, the ecological factors to which the forest-dwelling species responds remain to be analyzed. A recent speciation process in gray marmot complex was followed by the evolution of ecological requirements resulting in adaptation to forest dwelling.
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  • Faculty of Sciences, University of South Bohamia, Branisovska 31, 370-05 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
  • Faculty of Sciences, University of South Bohamia, Branisovska 31, 370-05 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
  • Faculty of Sciences, University of South Bohamia, Branisovska 31, 370-05 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
  • Faculty of Sciences, University of South Bohamia, Branisovska 31, 370-05 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
  • Faculty of Sciences, University of South Bohamia, Branisovska 31, 370-05 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
  • Faculty of Sciences, University of South Bohamia, Branisovska 31, 370-05 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
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