Marmots are the second largest rodents (after beavers) in the Palearctic Region. The body shape and size of these animals reflect their fossorial, or partly subterranean, life. Marmots are solid and boxshaped, with the legs apart. The hind legs are shorter than the forelegs. Their bodies are streamlined and flexible, and marmots are capable of pushing their way through narrow holes. They can change direction during sharp turns. All four feet have five digits with sturdy, blunt claws. Pads on the digits are very well developed. These pads function to help rake up earth and compensate to some extent for the complete or partial reduction of the fifth digit. Other digits are long, flexible, and capable of holding thin plant stems. The head of marmots is flattened, and the neck is short. The large eyes are close to the top of the head, allowing the animal to see the terrain above ground while remaining inside the burrow. Ears are small and barely extend beyond the fur. Long whiskers are located on checks, lower jaw, around the nose, and eyes.
Habitat and Ecology:
Marmot’s area adapted to alpine meadows, grassland and desert conditions with very low rainfall, being quite common in the mountain meadows which are often grazed by livestock. They are found from elevations of 1,400 to 5,500 m in the Himalayan region. Marmots are true burrowers, with a complex underground system of tunnels and dens. Even during the summer, marmots generally spend 16 to 20 hours a day in dens. The marmot is the largest mammal that exhibits true hibernation. During winter, when they become dormant, and quite often they do not emerge from hibernation for six months or longer. Marmots choose optimal sites for digging the winter burrow where persistent snow cover prevents the soil from freezing deeply. They usually dig deep burrows, which are shared by the colony members during hibernation.
Threats: Habitat loss, overgrazing, agriculture, and trapped for the fur trade.