The Alpine Marmot Project

Welcome to the Alpine Marmot Project

Dominique Allainé




tel. : +33(0)4 72 44 14 04
fax : +33(0)4 72 43 13 88

Biométrie et Biologie Évolutive
UCB Lyon 1 – Bât. Grégor Mendel
43 bd du 11 novembre 1918
69622 VILLEURBANNE cedex


My research lies in the field of evolutionary ecology and behavioural ecology with close ties to biology and population dynamics. My study model is the Alpine marmot, which I have studied since 1990 in a nature reserve managed by the Vanoise National Park. Working in a protected environment, my approach is essentially correlative.

sassière capture

The questions I pose cover several topics:

1. Evolutionary causes of monogamy

marmotte perruche gobi

Monogamy is a relatively rare mating system in mammals, who are more likely polygynous. The formation of a couple is central to the concept of monogamy and I am interested in the processes of mate choice. I want to know if females choose their partner based on absolute genetic characteristics (genetic quality) or relative genetic characteristics (genetic compatibility) and also whether this choice concern the entire genome or certain key loci as the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). I consider both the choice of social partner (the individual with whom the female forms a pair) as well as the choice of sexual partner (which may be different from the social partner). I am also interested in the mechanisms of choice: how females recognise a male of good genetic quality or a male presenting adequate genetic compatibility. For this, the role of smell is central. Finally, I am interested in the consequences of choice (particularly demographic) on the performance of offspring.

2. Evolutionary causes of sociality

marmotte loup suricate

To understand the evolution of sociality, I am interested in the costs and benefits of living in social groups. The biological model is the Alpine marmot who lives in family groups consisting of a dominant couple who monopolize (or attempt to monopolize) reproduction, sexually mature subordinate individuals (generally descendants of the dominant pair) who delay their dispersion and do not reproduce, yearlings and the pups of that year. I am currently studying the influence of the size and composition of groups (age, sex and parental relationship) on the reproductive success of dominants. I seek to quantify the cost to the dominants of reproductive competition between dominants and subordinates of the same sex. Meanwhile, I am analysing how the presence of subordinates benefits the reproductive success of dominants.

3. Life history traits and climate change

marmotte glacier ours

Several studies have shown the influence of climate change on species’ distribution and sought to predict future distributions of species in response to these changes. However, it is important to understand how, by which mechanisms, climate change is affecting populations. Extreme environments, such as mountain environments or polar environments, are very sensitive to these changes. I research the effects of climate change on individuals’ demographic performance (litter size, survival) but also on other life history traits (weight, size and composition of social groups) which may indirectly affect individual performance. The biological model is the Alpine marmot in the Grande Sassière valley.



Berger V., Lemaître JF., Dupont P., Allainé D., Gaillard JM. and Cohas A. (2016) Age-specific survival in the socially monogamous alpine marmot (Marmota marmota): evidence of senescence. Journal of Mammalogy, XX: 1-9. pdf

Berger V., Lemaître JF., Allainé D., Gaillard JM. and Cohas A. (2015) Early and adult social environments have independent effects on individual fitness in a social vertebrate. Proceedings of Royal Society B, 282:20151167 pdf

Lardy S., Allainé D. and Cohas A. (2013) Intrasexual competition and female dominance tenure in a singular breeding mammal, the Alpine marmot. Animal Behaviour, 86:1155–1163. pdf

Tafani M., Cohas A., Bonenfant C., Gaillard J.-M., Allainé D. (2013) Decreasing litter size of marmots over time: a life-history response to climate change? Ecology, 94:580–586. pdf

Tafani M., Cohas A., Bonenfant C., Gaillard J.-M., Lardy S., Allainé D. Sex-specific senescence in body mass of a monogamous and monomorphic mammal: the case of Alpine marmots. Oecologia, 172:427–436. pdf

Kuduk K., Johanet A., Allainé D., Cohas A., Radwan J. (2012) Contrasting patterns of selection acting on MHC class I and class II DRB genes inthe Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota). Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 25: 1686-1693. pdf. supporting information

Lardy S., Cohas A., Desouhant E., Tafani M., Allainé D. (2012) Paternity and dominance loss in male breeders : the cost of helpers in a cooperatively breeding mammal. PLoS One 7: e29508. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029508. pdf

Lardy S., Cohas A., Figueroa I., Allainé D. (2011) Mate change in a socially monogamous mammal: evidences support the “forced divorce” hypothesis. Behavioural Ecology, 22: 120-125. pdf

Cohas A., Allainé D. (2009) Social structure influences extra-pair paternity in socially monogamous mammals. Biology Letters, 5: 313-316. pdf

Cohas A., Bonenfant C., Kempenaers B., Allainé D. (2009) Age-specific effect of heterozygosity on survival in alpine marmots, Marmota marmota. Molecular Ecology 18: 1491-1503. pdf

Cohas A., Yoccoz N.G., Bonenfant C., Goossens B., Genton C., Galan M., Kempenaers B., Allainé D. (2008) The genetic similarity between pair members influences the frequency of extrapair paternity in alpine marmots. Animal Behaviour, 76: 87-95. pdf

Cohas A., Yoccoz N.G., Allainé D. (2007) Extra-pair paternity in alpine marmot (Marmota marmota): Genetic quality and genetic diversity effects. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 61: 1081-1092. pdf

Cohas A., Bonenfant C., Allainé D., Gaillard J-M. (2007) Are extra-pair young better than within-pair young? A comparison of survival and dominance in alpine marmot. Journal of Animal Ecology, 76: 771-781. pdf

Cohas A., Yoccoz N.G., Da Silva A., Goossens B., Allainé D. (2006) Extra-pair paternity in the monogamous alpine marmot (Marmota marmota): The roles of social setting and female mate choice. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 55: 597-605. pdf

Da Silva A., Luikart G., Yoccoz N.G., Cohas A., Allainé D. (2006) Heterozygosity-Fitness-Correlation revealed by microsatellite analyses in European alpine marmots (Marmota marmota). Conservation Genetics, 7: 371-382. pdf

Allainé D. (2004) Sex ratio variation in the cooperatively breeding alpine marmot Marmota marmota. Behavioral Ecology, 15: 997-1002. pdf

Allainé D., Theuriau F. (2004) Is there an optimal number of helpers in alpine marmot family groups? Behavioral Ecology, 15: 916-924. pdf

Devillard S., Allainé D., Gaillard J-M., Pontier D. (2004) Does social complexity lead to sex-biased dispersal in polygynous mammals? A test on ground-dwelling sciurids. Behavioral Ecology, 15: 83-87. pdf

Da Silva A., Luikart G., Allainé D., Gautier P., Taberlet P., Pompanon F. (2003) Isolation and caractérisation of microsatellites in European alpine marmots (Marmota marmota). Molecular Ecology Notes, 3: 189-190. pdf

Farand E., Allainé D., Coulon J. (2002) Variation in survival rates of the monogamous alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) : effects of sex age year and climate factors. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 80: 342-349. pdf

King W., Allainé D. (2002) Social, maternal, and environmental influences on reproductive success in female Alpine marmots (Marmota marmota) Canadian Journal of Zoology, 80: 2137-2143. pdf

Goossens B., Chikhi L., Taberlet P., Waits L.P., Allainé D. (2001) Microsatellite analysis of genetic variation among and within alpine marmot populations in the French alps. Molecular Ecology, 10: 41-52. pdf

Allainé D. (2000) Sociality mating system and reproductive skew in marmots : evidence and hypotheses. Behavioural Processes, 51: 21-34. pdf

Allainé D., Brondex F., Graziani L., Coulon J., Till-Bottraud I. (2000) Male-biased sex ratio in litters of alpine marmots supports the helper repayment hypothesis. Behavioral Ecology, 11: 507-514. pdf

Bel M., Coulon J., Sreng L., Allainé, D., Bagneres A., Clement J. (1999) Social signals involved in scent-marking behavior by cheek-rubbing in Alpine marmots (Marmota marmota). Journal of Chemical Ecology, 25: 2267-2283. pdf

Goossens B., Graziani L., Waits L., Farand E., Magnolon S., Coulon J., Bel MC., Taberlet P., Allainé D. (1998) Extra-pair paternity in the monogamous Alpine marmot revealed by nuclear DNA microsatellite analysis. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 43: 281-288. pdf

Allainé D., Graziani L., Coulon J. (1998) Postweaning mass gain in juvenile alpine marmots Marmota marmota. Oecologia, 113: 370-376. pdf

King W., Allainé D.(1998) Copulatory behaviour of alpine marmots (Marmota marmota). Mammalia, 62: 439-441. pdf

Goossens B., Coulon J., Allainé D., Graziani L., Bel MC., Taberlet P. (1996) Immigration of a pregnant female in an alpine marmot family group: Behavioural and genetic data. Comptes Rendus de l’Academie des Sciences, 319: 241-246. pdf

Coulon J., Graziani L., Allainé D., Bel M.C, Pouderoux S. (1995) Infanticide in the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota). Ethology Ecology and Evolution, 7: 191-194. pdf

Allainé D., Rodrigue I., Le Berre M., Ramousse R. (1994) Habitat preferences of alpine marmots, Marmota marmota. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 72: 2193-2198. pdf

Perrin C., Allainé D., Le Berre M. (1994) Male intrusion and possible infanticide in alpine marmots. Mammalia, 58: 150-153. pdf

Perrin C., Coulon J., Le Berre M. (1993) Social behavior of alpine marmots (Marmota marmota) – Seasonal, group, and individual variability. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 71: 1945-1953. pdf


Lardy S, Cohas A, Allainé D. (2011) The cost of helpers in cooperative breeders: mechanism and consequences of male-male competition in a cooperatively breeding mammal. ESEB, 13th congress, Tübingen, Germany. pdf

Lardy S, Cohas A, Allainé D. (2009) Divorce in a monogamous mammal, evidences supporting the “forced divorce” hypothesis. ESEB, 12th congress, Turin.