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Den characteristics and ecological significance of Marmota himalayana on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
  • Shulin Wang,
  • Fujiang Hou
Shulin Wang
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Fujiang Hou
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Abstract

Dens are places for cavernicolous animals to hibernate, reproduce, and avoid predators and harsh weather conditions, and thus they have a vital impact on their survival. M. himalayana is the main large cavernicolous rodent on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The analysis of den traits and their ecological functions can reveal mechanisms by which marmots have adapted to their environment, which is important for further understanding the ecological significance of this species. From July to August 2019 (warm season), we used unmanned aerial vehicles to fly at low altitudes and slow speeds to locate 131 marmot burrows (45 on shaded slopes, 51 on sunny slopes, and 35 on flat areas) in the northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. We then measured the physical characteristics (den density, entrance size, first tunnel length, volume, orientation and plant characteristics near the den entrance) of these dens on site. The physical parameters of the M. himalayana dens showed that they function to protect the marmots from natural enemies and bad weather, provide good drainage, and maintain a stable microclimate around the entrance. This is a result of the marmot’s adaptation to the harsh environment (cold and humidity) of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

10 Dec 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
12 Dec 2020Assigned to Editor
12 Dec 2020Submission Checks Completed
14 Jan 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned