Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus)

loading
Pyrenean desman at water's edge, with wet fur
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Pyrenean desman fact file

Pyrenean desman description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderSoricomorpha
FamilyTalpidae
GenusGalemys (1)

Named after the place of its home, the Pyrenean desman is a small aquatic insectivore closely related to moles, also known as the Iberian desman (4) (5). This adept swimmer has many adaptations to its aquatic habitat, including an elongated head and body with a long tail, webbed, paddle-like hindfeet, and the ability to close both ears and nostrils to prevent water getting in (3) (5) (6). In contrast to moles, which have powerful digging front legs, desmans have powerful hind legs that are longer than the forefeet to help propel them through the water (5). The tail is also slightly flattened vertically, acting as a rudder and helping to steer and direct the animal as it swims (7). A double layer of fine dark greyish-brown fur includes a dense waterproof underfur and oily guard hairs (5). The eyes are tiny and eyesight is poor, but the long, black, almost hairless snout is highly sensitive and used to locate prey (2) (5).

Also known as
Iberian desman.
French
Desman Des Pyrénées.
Spanish
Desmán Ibérico.
Size
Length: 12.5 cm (2)
Tail length: 14 cm (2)
Weight
35.5 – 80 g (3)
Top

Pyrenean desman biology

The Pyrenean desman seeks shelter in rock crevices, caves, or the burrows of water rats, only rarely digging their own burrows. This species lives in pairs that are typically monogamous, with the male’s territory completely encompassing that of the female, although solitary adults also exist (6). Territories are scent-marked and will be defended to the death against intruders (5) (6). The breeding season is from January to May, during which females may breed up to three times (5) (6). Litters of one to five, usually three to four, young are born after a gestation period of about 30 days, and weaning probably takes place after around 30 days (5) (6). Sexual maturity is thought to be attained after approximately two years, but little else is known of the life history patterns of this enigmatic species (5).

The Pyrenean desman feeds nocturnally on a diverse array of crustaceans and insect larvae, including stoneflies and caddis fly larvae (1), although this amphibious mammal may also exhibit short periods of activity during the day (3). Ungainly on land (5), this species is a powerful swimmer and accomplished diver, primarily foraging by sifting through stream sediments with its forefeet and using its extremely tactile and sensitive long snout to search for prey (3). It has been suggested that the Pyrenean desman may also slap the surface of the water to produce noises useful in echolocation to help find its way around and locate underwater prey, but this is only speculation (5) (6).

Top

Pyrenean desman range

Known from the Pyrenees Mountains and the northern Iberian Peninsula in the countries of France, Spain and Portugal (1) (4).

Top

Pyrenean desman habitat

Unlike the only other desman species, the Russian desman (Desmana moschata), the Pyrenean species lives along fast-flowing mountain streams, although it is occasionally found in slower-moving water bodies, including canals, lakes and marshes at altitudes of 60 to 1,200 metres (1) (7).

Top

Pyrenean desman status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

Top

Pyrenean desman threats

The Pyrenean desman is threatened because it is bound to a very vulnerable habitat within a restricted area. The greatest threat to the species comes from water pollution and habitat fragmentation caused by the construction of hydroelectric plants. Direct persecution from fishermen who mistakenly believe the species competes for fish stocks, especially trout, also poses a threat, as does over harvesting from the wild by eager collectors. In addition, fears have been expressed that North American minx (Mustela vison) escaping from fur farms in northern Iberia may be having a negative impact upon populations. The full impact of these threats is not known as population surveys are notoriously difficult for this aquatic species (1).

Top

Pyrenean desman conservation

The Pyrenean desman and its dwindling habitat are protected in the parts of its range that occur within the Parc National des Pyrénées Occidentales and Parque Nacional de Covadona, and populations may also possibly exist in the Parque Nacional de Aiguas y Lago de San Mauricio and the Parque Nacional de Ordesa. Following an international conference on the conservation of this rare aquatic mammal, an action plan was drawn up to help save the species from further declines (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For more information on the Pyrenean desman see:

Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
Top

Glossary

Amphibious
Capable of living both on land and in water.
Echolocation
Detecting objects by reflected sound. Used for orientation and detecting and locating prey by bats and cetacea (whales and dolphins).
Monogamous
Mating with a single partner.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  3. The Mole Tunnel (November, 2006)
    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~campbelk/iberiandesman.html
  4. Romão, C. (1997) Help on radio-tracking Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus). Bioforum. (November, 2006)
    http://www.bio.net/bionet/mm/bioforum/1997-April/023298.html
  5. BBC: Science and Nature (November, 2006)
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/599.shtml
  6. Animal Diversity Web (November, 2006)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Galemys_pyrenaicus.html
  7. IUCN/SSC Insectivore, Tree Shrew and Elephant Shrew Specialist Group. (1995) Eurasian Insectivores and Tree Shrews: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. Available at:
    http://members.vienna.at/shrew/itsesAP95-desmana.html#galemys
X
Close

Image credit

Pyrenean desman at water's edge, with wet fur  
Pyrenean desman at water's edge, with wet fur

© Daniel Heuclin / www.photoshot.com

NHPA/Photoshot Holdings Ltd
29-31 Saffron Hill
London
EC1N 8SW
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7421 6003
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7421 6006
sales@photoshot.com
http://www.photoshot.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in the Mediterranean Basin eco-region

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog