Izor and de la Torre, 1978
|Colombian weasel range|
Colombian weasel (Mustela felipei), also known as the Don Felipe's weasel, is a very rare species of weasel only known with certainty from the departments of Huila and Cauca in Colombia and nearby northern Ecuador (where only known from a single specimen). Both its scientific and alternative common name honours the mammalogist Philip "Don Felipe" Hershkovitz.
It appears to be largely restricted to riparian habitats at an altitude of 1,100 to 2,700 m. There is extensive deforestation within its limited distribution within the Northern Andes of Colombia and Ecuador, and with less than 10 known specimens, it is probably the rarest carnivoran in South America. It is therefore considered vulnerable by IUCN.
Mature specimens have averaged around 22 cm (8.7 in), not counting a tail of around 11.5 cm (4.5 in), and have weighed 120–150 g (4.2–5.3 oz). This places as the second smallest living carnivore on average, being only slightly larger than the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) and slightly smaller than the Ermine or Stoat (M. erminea). The upperparts and tail are blackish-brown, while the underparts are orange-buff.
M. felipei is one of the least studied carnivore species in the Americas, and is expected to maintain a larger geographical range that currently known. Reports of sightings have placed M. felipei in the mountain ranges of western Colombia to northern Ecuador. M. felipei was originally thought to be endemic to Colombia however recent specimens have been collected in Ecuador that have since proven this thought wrong. Distribution and habitat modeling surveys have been able to predict that M. felipei is distributed between 20 protected areas in Colombia, and 14 in Ecuador along with 3 previously known locations in both countries, the majority of these locations lie in protected areas of the forest which lie in a range of elevation between 1,100 to 2,700 meters.
From geographic modeling, and collected specimens it has been concluded that Mustela felipei lives in a largely riparian habitat, primarily staying close to rivers, streams, and along the shorelines of other natural water sources. Since this habitat lies in an elevation range of 1,100 to 2,700 meters it is classified as being in a "cloud forest" consisting of 100% humidity adding to the riparian habitat of M. felipie.The specimens were collected at an elevation ranging from 1,100 to 2,700 meters classifying it as a cloud forest which consists of 100% humidity, adding to the riparian habitat of M. felipei.
M. felipei has a typical elongated body with an average length of 22cm with an additional 11.5cm being added on with the tail. Weight ranges between 120 to 150 grams. M. felipei has a dark dorsal color with no variation, ventrally the weasel has a light orange color with gradual fading of color up to the head. Hair color from the tail to the nose is uniform with no striping or spotting. M. felipei contains an inflated auditory bullae located near the dorsal midline on the body, along with a wide mesopterygoid fossa. The soles of the feet lack any fur, which allows webbing of the feet. Extensive webbing is located on the second, third, and fourth digit, which suggests a semi-aquatic lifestyle.
M. felipei is a carnivorous mammal that preys primarily on fish, other small aquatic animals, and small terrestrial mammals. Hunting is aided by the use of webbed feet and camouflaged fur.
Mustela felipei has been recognized by the IUCN as being vulnerable and having a decreasing population. However due to rarity of sighting, and deforestation of known habitat it remains unclear as to the true numbers of individuals that make up the population.
- Emmons, L. & Helgen, K. (2008). Mustela felipei. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of vulnerable
- Eisenberg, John Frederick; Redford, Kent Hubbard (1999). Mammals of the Neotropics: The Central Neotropics: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil (vol. 3). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 624. ISBN 978-0-226-19542-1.
- Izor, R. J., and L. de la Torre. 1978. A New Species of Weasel (Mustela) from the Highlands of Colombia, with Comments on the Evolution and Distribution of South American Weasels. Journal of Mammalogy. Vol. 59(1): 92-102
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