Extrinsic and intrinsic factors affecting the activity budget of alpine marmots (Marmota marmota)


Extrinsic and intrinsic factors may influence the activity budget of wild animals, resulting in a variation in the time spent in different activities among populations or individuals of the same species. In this study, we examined how extrinsic and intrinsic factors affect the behaviour of the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota), a hibernating social rodent inhabiting high-elevation prairies in the European Alps. We collected behavioural observations during scan sampling sessions on marked individuals at two study sites with different environmental characteristics. We used Bayesian hierarchical multinomial regression models to analyse the influence of both intrinsic (sex and age-dominance status) and extrinsic (environmental and climatic variables) factors on the above-ground activity budget. Marmots spent most of their time above ground foraging, and were more likely to forage when it was cloudy. Extrinsic factors such as the site, period of the season (June, July-August, and August-September), and time of the day were all related to the probability of engaging in vigilance behaviour, which reaches its peak in early morning and late afternoon and during July, the second period included in the study. Social behaviours, such as affiliative and agonistic behaviours, were associated mostly with sex and age-dominance status, and yearlings were the more affiliative individuals compared to other status. Overall, our results suggest that in alpine marmots, intrinsic factors mostly regulate agonistic and affiliative behaviours, while extrinsic factors, with the unexpected exception of temperature, affect the probabilities of engaging in all types of behavioural categories.

Mammal research