Pyrenean desman

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Pyrenean desman[1]
Galemys pyrenaicus 01 by-dpc.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Eulipotyphla
Family: Talpidae
Genus: Galemys
G. pyrenaicus
Binomial name
Galemys pyrenaicus
(É. Geoffroy, 1811)
Galemys pyrenaicus map.png
  Galemys pyrenaicus pyrenaicus
  Galemys pyrenaicus rufulus

The Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) is a small semiaquatic, globally threatened mammal related to moles and shrews, and, along with the Russian desman (Desmana moschata), is one of the two extant members of the tribe Desmanini.[2][3] The species occurs in north and central parts of Spain and Portugal, French Pyrenees, and Andorra,[2] but severe range contractions have been documented across its geographic distribution.[4]


Snout of the Pyrenean desman

The Pyrenean desman is 11 to 14 cm (4.3 to 5.5 in) long with a rounded scale-covered tail of 12 to 16 cm (4.7 to 6.3 in), and weighs 35 to 80 g (1.2 to 2.8 oz).[3] Pyrenean desmans have a long, sensitive nasal trompe provided with hypertrophic vibrissae and chemo-/mechanosensitive Eimer’s organs helping prey detection, and large webbed feet with fringed hairs to increase the swimming surface, and can close off their nostrils and ears to stop water penetration.[3][5]

The desman's body is covered in dark, brownish fur, with the exception of its tail and nose. The nose is black and is covered in vibrissae (facial hairs), which it uses to feel the movement of prey as it sticks its nose into mud or crevices while searching for food. The Pyrenean desman can live at least 3.5 years. The animals are mostly nocturnal, and eat small invertebrates, mostly aquatic macroinvertebrates. They breed up to three times a year, with the period of gestation lasting around thirty days.

Three to four young are born in each litter. The males have a slightly larger territory than the female. Both males and females scent mark. They are thought to be aggressive towards other adult members of the species.[3][6]


Pyrenean desmans are proficient swimmers, suited to their aquatic habitat, although their claws also allow them to be good at climbing. They mostly occur in fast-flowing, mountaineous rivers with shallow waters and good riparian galleries. The habitat of the Pyrenean desman is under threat, and recent studies have shown dramatic declines in species occurrence in several parts of its range in the last few decades [4][7]


Threats include habitat fragmentation and alteration, invasive species (e.g. the American mink), and climate change.[4][7]

The Photo Ark[edit]

On May 4, 2018, National Geographic reported that the Pyrenean desman was the 8,000th animal photographed for The Photo Ark by Joel Sartore.[8]


  1. ^ Hutterer, R. (2005). "Order Soricomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b c Quaglietta, L.; Aulagnier, S. (2020). "Galemys pyrenaicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T8826A114145177. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T8826A114145177.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d [1], Palmeirim, J. M., & Hoffmann, R. S. (1983). Galemys pyrenaicus. Mammalian Species, (207), 1-5.
  4. ^ a b c [2], Quaglietta L., Paupério J., Martins F., Alves P.C., Beja P. (2018). Recent range contractions in the globally threatened Pyrenean desman highlight the importance of stream headwater refugia. Animal Conservation.
  5. ^ [3], Quaglietta L. (2018). Semi-aquatic. In: Vonk J., Shackelford T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham.
  6. ^ [4], Stone, R. D. (1987). The social ecology of the Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus)(Insectivora: Talpidae), as revealed by radiotelemetry. Journal of Zoology, 212(1), 117-129.
  7. ^ a b [5], Charbonnel, A., Laffaille, P., Biffi, M., Blanc, F., Maire, A., Némoz, M., ... & Buisson, L. (2016). Can recent global changes explain the dramatic range contraction of an endangered semi-aquatic mammal species in the French Pyrenees?. PLOS One, 11(7), e0159941.
  8. ^ Gibbens, Sarah (May 4, 2018). "Aquatic Mammal With Snorkel Nose Is 8,000th Animal in Our Photo Ark". National Geographic. Archived from the original on June 9, 2018. Retrieved June 9, 2018.