It’s April and its official, your very own Impurest is engaged (and has been for a few weeks now). While I wanted to reveal it last issue, the fact it was April Fool’s put me off, as did the devastatingly devious behaviour of the T.rex Leech who masqueraded as the tyrant king himself. This week we return to the regular non deceptive nature of IGTA with a furry little river dweller. Hope you guys enjoy.
EEEE I’m getting married
Issue #168 - Russian Desman
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Mammalia
Order – Soricomorpha
Family – Talpidae
Genus – Desmna
Species – moschata
Related Species - The Russian Desman is one of two extant species of Desmen, the other being the Pyrenean Desman (Galemys pyrenaicus).
The Russian Desman is a small brown furred mammal which reaches a length of 40cm on average and a weight between 400 to 520g. While similar in appearance to rodents, Desman’s are actually related to moles (2), and like their close relatives are functionally blind only being able to distinguish between light and dark. In able to navigate around its environment the Desman uses the bulbous, almost beak like structure, on the tip of its snout known as the Eimer’s Organ, which enhances the animal’s sense of smell and touch.
Desman’s are carnivorous and feed predominantly underwater using the large webbed front feet to swim after prey such as fish, crayfish, insects and small amphibians (3). Desman’s subdue their prey underwater and can hold their breath for up to five minutes. Desmans are themselves prayed on by large fish, herons and weasels among other species. To reduce predation the Russian Desman is largely nocturnal and often takes to the water to evade its enemies.
Russian Desmans live in small groups of up to five or eight individuals in nests on the banks of the rivers and ponds that they hunt in. All of these individuals will work together to mark and defend their territories from other groups by marking features with a powerful musk. Within the group the males will mate with the females, with the later giving birth to litters of two to five kits, often in spring or autumn.
Five to Save #16 - Insectivores and Rodents
Due to their small size, short lifespans and fast turnover rate it’s hard to think of rodents (such as rats, mice and voles) and insectivores (such as shrews and moles) as being endangered. And while a vast many species have adapted to live alongside humans, an equal amount are struggling as the giant world around them changes. As often is the case, the small and meek often suffer as much as the strong, and while we may detest rats in our bins and mice in our larders, many of their relatives are in need of our help.
Jamaican Hutia (Geocapromys brownii) Status: Vulnerable
Threats: Invasive Species - The last extant native mammal of Jamaica (other than a few species of bats), the Hutia suffers from overhunting and habitat destruction. The main threat to its survival however, is the introduction of the Indian Mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) in 1872 to control the invasive Black Rat (Rattus rattus) population. The former species quickly turned on the larger slower Hutia (4), and even contributed to the extinction of the closely related Swan Island Hutia (G.thoractus) in 1955.
Pacarana (Diomys branickii) Status: Vulnerable
Threats: Overhunting - The third largest extant rodent in the world, the Pacarana is a slow moving rodent whose initial response to predators is to back up against a tree or rock and fight its potential attacker. Unfortunately this defensive behaviour is ineffective against human hunters armed with spears and firearms, with hunting depleting the Pacarana’s population by a third over the last decade.
Pyrenean Desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) Status: Vulnerable
Threats: Water Pollution - While not as rare as its Russian relatives, the Pyrenean Desman population is declining in its native Spain and Portugal thanks to a mixture of dams reducing flow of rivers and mining pollution (3). The southernmost populations are already endangered or extinct, as industry pushes northward towards the Pyrenees and the desman’s last stronghold.
Santiago Galapagos Mouse (Nesoryzomys swarthy) Status: Vulnerable
Threats: Invasive Species - Considered extinct in 1906, the Santiago Galapagos Mouse was rediscovered in 1997 living in cactus scrub on Santiago Island. As with most species on the Galapagos Islands, this mouse species is threatened by invasive species; in this case the Black Rat and the Domestic Cat (Felis cattus), with this species quickly disappearing in areas where these two introduced species are present. It’s speculated that the Santiago Galapagos Mouse’s ability to tolerate drought and feed off cacti may be the only reason its survived for so long after it was whipped out elsewhere, a factor that may be reducing as the Galapagos Islands experience increased rainfall (due to climate change) and the cactus scrub dies off.
Sao Tome Shrew (Crocidura thomensis) Status: Critically Endangered
Threats: Increase in Predation - With the introduction of numerous invasive species of rodent to the tiny island of Sao Tome, the population or predatory birds has increased. And while many of the invaders are nocturnal, the Sao Tome Shrew is active all day long and as such found itself in the sights of its predators. Combined with habitat destruction, this population of shrews is shrinking at an exponential rate towards extinction (5).
2 - Hutterer, R. (2005)."Order Soricomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M.Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference(3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 303
3 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19260705
4 - Woods, C.A. and Sergile, F.E. (2001) Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and Perspectives. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.
5 - Dutton, J. (1994). "Introduced mammals in Sao Tome and Principe: possible threats to biodiversity.".Biodiversity and Conservation.3(9): 927–938.
1 - https://www.konicaminolta.com/kids/endangered_animals/library/field/img/russian-desman_img01-l.jpg
2 - http://bushwarriors.org.s130414.gridserver.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/geographic-range-of-the-russian-desman.png
3 - http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/FC/FC4D7F92-5207-493C-A69A-79B4E5145A34/Presentation.Large/Russian-desman-hunting-underwater.jpg
4 - http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/9E/9E2019CE-1362-4E19-A266-ED9C2D23AA76/Presentation.Large/Pacarana-foraging-at-night.jpg
5 - http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/F5/F5EE68FF-95A4-400F-8EF5-51A2243F304F/Presentation.Large/Santiago-Galapagos-mouse-on-the-hand-of-a-scientist.jpg
Talk about small problems that quickly snowball. Next week we have an armour plated request from @queen_marceline, but until then make sure to critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary