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Keywords:

  • age structure;
  • dispersal;
  • matriline;
  • population growth rate;
  • reproductive suppression

Abstract

Social behaviour was proposed as a density-dependent intrinsic mechanism that could regulate an animal population by affecting reproduction and dispersal. Populations of the polygynous yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris) fluctuate widely from year to year primarily driven by the number of weaned young. The temporal variation in projected population growth rate was driven mainly by changes in the age of first reproduction and fertility, which are affected by reproductive suppression. Dispersal is unrelated to population density, or the presence of the father; hence, neither of these limits population growth or acts as an intrinsic mechanism of population regulation; overall, intrinsic regulation seems unlikely. Sociality affects the likelihood of reproduction in that the annual probability of reproducing and the lifetime number of offspring are decreased by the number of older females and by the number of same-aged females present, but are increased by the number of younger adult females present. Recruitment of a yearling female is most likely when her mother is present; recruitment of philopatric females is much more important than immigration for increasing the number of adult female residents. Predation and overwinter mortality are the major factors limiting the number of resident adults. Social behaviour is not directed towards population regulation, but is best interpreted as functioning to maximize direct fitness.