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Changing seasonality and phenological responses of free-living male arctic ground squirrels: the importance of sex

TitleChanging seasonality and phenological responses of free-living male arctic ground squirrels: the importance of sex
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSheriff, MJ, Richter, MM, Buck, LC, Barnes, BM
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B
Volume368
Abstract

Many studies have addressed the effects of climate change on species as a whole; however, few have examined the possibility of sex-specific differences. To understand better the impact that changing patterns of snow-cover have on an important resident Arctic mammal, we investigated the long-term (13 years) phenology of hibernating male arctic ground squirrels living at two nearby sites in northern Alaska that experience significantly different snow-cover regimes. Previously, we demonstrated that snow-cover influences the timing of phenological events in females. Our results here suggest that the end of heterothermy in males is influenced by soil temperature and an endogenous circannual clock, but timing of male emergence from hibernation is influenced by the timing of female emergence. Males at both sites, Atigun and Toolik, end heterothermy on the same date in spring, but remain in their burrows while undergoing reproductive maturation. However, at Atigun, where snowmelt and female emergence occur relatively early, males emerge 8 days earlier than those at Toolik, maintaining a 12-day period between male and female emergence found at each site, but reducing the pre-emergence euthermic period that is critical for reproductive maturation. This sensitivity in timing of male emergence to female emergence will need to be matched by phase shifts in the circannual clock and responsiveness to environmental factors that time the end of heterothermy, if synchrony in reproductive readiness between the sexes is to be preserved in a rapidly changing climate.

DOI10.1098/rstb.2012.0480
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