The study of four populations of alpine marmots has revealed that each of them emits cries of alarm in a different dialect.

Alpine marmot in Vallter (Catalonia) this August 2020. It has an adequate weight to go back to hibernate in September.

Summer is the adventure time of the alpine marmot (Marmot marmota). It comes out of its burrow, where it has spent the winter and the cold with the family, and looks for food, sunbathes and collects material for the next hibernation. Cautious, he does not go much further than a meter from ‘home’ and runs back if he hears the cry of alarm from another marmot.

A recent study, published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, has found that these cries vary among marmots of different populations. These dialects allow them recognize alien marmots and, instead of investigating or facing danger as they would when faced with a familiar cry, they run off and hide in their burrow just in case.

“Marmots are capable of recognize the screeching of members of your populationeven in a recording, and we have seen that they respond more fearful if they do not know who the station is “, explains Mariona Ferrandiz, author of the study and ecologist at the Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona ( UAB).

Dialects without geographic influences

Research has also analyzed what is the reason for these language differences among marmots. According to the results, It has nothing to do with the region where they live, nor with the genetics of individuals.

“Just as human dialects vary, especially depending on where we live, we have seen that this is not the case in marmots. Although we do not know why each town screams in a wayIt could be about learning from parents to children or from the social environment ”, clarifies the ecologist.

“The anti-predatory response that appears once they hear the alarm cries of other marmots has an energy and time expenditure, therefore, learn to distinguish family dialects it allows them to be confident and save energy ”, he adds.

The research has been carried out over five years (2011-2014), with four populations of Marmot marmota, two native to the French Alps (Vanoise) and two reintroduced in the Pyrenees (Cerdanya and Ripollès).

The cries of the marmots They were recorded from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., the time in which they are most active, and then they were analyzed by the experts. The recordings were also played in situ, to observe what was the reaction of the marmots.

In addition to CREAF and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​the study has the participation of the Claude Bernard University of Lyon, the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and the “Vogelwarte Helgoland” Avian Research Institute (Germany).