Hibernation strategies and patterns in sympatric arctic species, the Alaska marmot and the arctic ground squirrel

Trixie N. Lee, Franziska Kohl, C. Loren Buck, Brian M. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We compared patterns of core body temperature (T b) change, including inter-individual synchrony, in 2 free-living arctic hibernators that differ in size and sociality, the Alaska marmot (Marmota broweri) and the arctic ground squirrel (Urocitellus parryii). We report overwinter T b changes from 3 to 4 marmots from the same hibernaculum in each of 3 years and from 7 ground squirrels that hibernated at 2 nearby burrow sites in 1 year. Very close synchrony in the timing of torpor and arousal cycles in Alaska marmots indicates social hibernation and thermoregulation, while lack of synchrony in arctic ground squirrels further confirms solitary hibernation. The mean duration between the first and last marmot measured within the group to initiate an arousal was 3.7±2.5h and to recool to 30°C during torpor entrance was 5.7±3.7h. The minimum T b recorded in marmots was 0.6°C and in ground squirrels was -2.0°C. Marmots entering torpor displayed an interrupted pattern of T b change defined by 2 distinct rates of cooling, early and late during entry, that differed by 21-fold. Ground squirrels cooled in a continuous pattern, initially 3-fold slower than marmots during rapid cooling but 4-fold faster during slow cooling. Both species must minimize energy expenditure to survive long arctic winters; our results suggest that Alaska marmots do this through social thermoregulation, while arctic ground squirrels decrease T b below freezing to minimize the difference between body and ambient temperatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-144
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2016


  • Alaska marmot
  • Arctic
  • Marmota broweri
  • Urocitellus parryii
  • hibernation
  • synchrony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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