Study sheds lights on how animals will be affected by climate change in the future
Climate change creating ‘super marmots’ that are bigger and more abundant
By Richard Alleyne
Scientists first began studying the animals, that live at around 10,000 feet up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, in 1962.
To reach their findings, the team analysed the body mass, survival and reproduction of female yellow-bellied marmots by live-trapping them multiple times during the summer and individually marking them using numbered ear tags.
The results showed that since then, the average mass of adult marmots had increased by 11 per cent or 400 grams. The population had also grown by a quarter over a 33 year period.
The lead researcher in the study, Dr Arpat Ozgul of Imperial College London, said the population increase could be down to a "short-term response" to longer summers.
But he explained further study was needed to shed light on how animals will be affected by climate change in the future.
"Marmots are awake for only four to five months of the year," he said.
"These months are a busy time for them- they have to eat and gain weight, get pregnant, produce offspring and get ready to hibernate again.
"Since the summers have become longer, marmots have had more time to do these things and grow up before the upcoming winter, so they are more likely to succeed and survive.
"Will populations thrive in the changing climate? We suspect this population increase is a short-term response to the lengthening summers, but we hope by continuing this long-term study we will shed important light on the marmot’s future response to climate change."
Recent research has shown that a certain breed of sheep in Scotland is shrinking due to the effects of climate change.
Professor Tim Coulson, co-author of the research which was published in the journal Nature, said marmots had provided another example of how climate change is impacting on the natural world.
He said: "We have shown how we can model the consequences of environmental change on wild populations.
"If we can get better at predicting how climate change is likely to influence the natural world, perhaps we can devise ways to help species predicted to be adversely affected by our changing climate."
(C) The Telegraph Group