Helpers influence on territory use and maintenance in Alpine marmot groups

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 Institut pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, Strasbourg cedex 2, France
  • 2 Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Via A. Ferrata 9, I-27100 Pavia, Italy
  • 3 Department of Neuroethology, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Mexico
  • 4 Département des Sciences Biologiques Université du Québec à Montréal, Case Postale 8888, succursale centre-ville Montréal, QC, Canada H3C 3P8
  • 5 Alpine Wildlife Research Centre, Gran Paradiso National Park Degioz 11, 11010 Valsavarenche (Ao), Italy

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In social mammals, territory size and shape vary according to the number and strength of neighbour individuals competing for resources. Two main theories have been proposed to explain this variability: the Group Augmentation (GA) and the realized Resource Holding Potential (rRHP) hypotheses. The first states that the outcome of the interactions among groups depends on the total number of individuals in the group while the second states that only the number of animals directly involved in intergroup competition determines this outcome. We collected data on space use of individually tagged Alpine marmots (Marmota marmota), a cooperative breeding species that overlaps part of its territory with neighbouring groups. In accordance with the rRHP hypothesis, we found that groups having higher proportion of helpers, rather than higher total number of individuals, had lower percentage of the territory overlapping with neighbouring groups and a larger area available for individual exclusive use.

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