loading page

The Timing of Reproduction is Responding Plastically, not Genetically, to Climate Change in Yellow-Bellied Marmots (Marmota flaviventer).
  • Sophia St. Lawrence,
  • Daniel Blumstein,
  • Julien Martin
Sophia St. Lawrence
University of Ottawa
Author Profile
Daniel Blumstein
University of California Los Angeles
Author Profile
Julien Martin
University of Ottawa

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile


With global climates changing rapidly, animals must adapt to new environmental conditions with altered weather and phenology. Key to adapting to these new conditions is adjusting the timing of reproduction to maximize fitness. Using a long-term dataset on a wild population of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventer) at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), we investigated how the timing of reproduction changed with changing spring conditions over the past 50 years. Marmots are hibernators with a four-month active season. It is thus crucial to reproduce early enough in the season to have time to prepare for hibernation, but not too early so as snow cover prevents access to food. Importantly, climate change in this area has increased spring temperatures by 5 oC and decreased spring snowpack by 50 cm over the past 50 years. We evaluated how female marmots adjust the timing of their reproduction in response to the changing conditions and estimated the importance of both genetic variance and plasticity in the variation in this timing. We showed that, within a year, the timing of reproduction is not as tightly linked to the date a female emerges from hibernation as previously thought. We reported a positive effect of spring snowpack but not of spring temperature on the timing of reproduction. We found inter-individual variation in the timing of reproduction, including low heritability, but not in its response to changing spring conditions. There was directional selection for earlier pup emergence date since it increased the number and proportion of pups surviving their first winter. Taken together, the timing of marmot reproduction might evolve via natural selection, however, plastic changes will also be extremely important as long as plasticity is not limited. Further, future studies on the marmots should not operate under the assumption that females reproduce immediately following their emergence.
26 Jun 2023Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
27 Jun 2023Submission Checks Completed
27 Jun 2023Assigned to Editor
27 Jun 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
03 Jul 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
31 Oct 20231st Revision Received
03 Nov 2023Submission Checks Completed
03 Nov 2023Assigned to Editor
03 Nov 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
16 Nov 2023Editorial Decision: Accept