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Environmental change has altered the phenology, morphological traits and population dynamics of many species. However, the links underlying these joint responses remain largely unknown owing to a paucity of long-term data and the lack of an appropriate analytical framework. Here we investigate the link between phenotypic and demographic responses to environmental change using a new methodology and a long-term (1976-2008) data set from a hibernating mammal (the yellow-bellied marmot) inhabiting a dynamic subalpine habitat. We demonstrate how earlier emergence from hibernation and earlier weaning of young has led to a longer growing season and larger body masses before hibernation. The resulting shift in both the phenotype and the relationship between phenotype and fitness components led to a decline in adult mortality, which in turn triggered an abrupt increase in population size in recent years. Direct and trait-mediated effects of environmental change made comparable contributions to the observed marked increase in population growth. Our results help explain how a shift in phenology can cause simultaneous phenotypic and demographic changes, and highlight the need for a theory integrating ecological and evolutionary dynamics in stochastic environments.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/nature09210

Type

Journal article

Journal

Nature

Publication Date

22/07/2010

Volume

466

Pages

482 - 485

Keywords

Animals, Biological Evolution, Body Weight, Colorado, Female, Global Warming, Hibernation, Marmota, Phenotype, Population Dynamics, Reproduction, Survival Rate, Time Factors, Weaning