Russian desman

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Russian desman
Desmana moschata MHNT.INS.10.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Eulipotyphla
Family: Talpidae
Genus: Desmana
D. moschata[1]
Binomial name
Desmana moschata[1]
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Russian Desman area.png
Russian desman range

Castor moschatus Linnaeus, 1758

The Russian desman (Desmana moschata) (Russian: выхухоль vykhukhol') is a small semiaquatic mammal that inhabits the Volga, Don and Ural River basins in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It constructs burrows into the banks of ponds and slow-moving streams, but prefers small, overgrown ponds with abundance of insects, crayfish and amphibians. The Russian desman often lives in small (usually not related) groups of two to five animals, and appears to have a complex (but largely unstudied) communication and social system.


Russian desman

The Russian desman is one of two surviving species of the tribe Desmanini, the other being the Pyrenean desman.[3] Despite its outward similarity to muskrats (a rodent), the Russian desman is actually part of the mole family Talpidae in the order Eulipotyphla. Like other moles, it is functionally blind and obtains much of its sensory input from the touch-sensitive Eimer's organs at the end of its long, bilobed snout. However, the hind feet are webbed and the tail is laterally flattened —specializations for its aquatic habitat. The body is 18 to 21 cm (7.1 to 8.3 in) long while the tail is 17 to 20 cm (6.7 to 7.9 in) in length. Easily the largest species of mole, it weighs 400 to 520 g (14 to 18 oz).[citation needed] Decidedly rich and thick in nature, desman fur used to be highly sought after by the fur trade. Consequently, the Russian desman is now a protected species under Russian law. However, due to loss of habitat (farming), water pollution, illegal fishing nets, and the introduction of non-native species like muskrat, population levels continue to decline. In the mid-1970s, an estimated 70,000 desmans were left in the wild; by 2004, the figure was only 35,000.[4] However, in some Russian regions,[which?] the number of desmans appears to be increasing.[citation needed]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

From 2009 to 2011, the Don Basin rivers were searched for Russian desman to evaluate if this environment was sustainable for the species. No evidence was found that the species lives in this area but if so, the population was very small. The limiting factors consist of global factors, interspecific  processes, and new immigrating species in the river ecosystem.[5]


Russian desman provide comfort to themselves by grooming. More specifically, scratching with hind feet, washing, biting out of nails, and biting out of fur. The main reasons for these actions are supporting the air layer and heat-insulating properties of fur.[6]


  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. ^ Kennerley, R.; Turvey, S.T. (2016). "Desmana moschata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T6506A22321477. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T6506A22321477.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  3. ^ Morelle, Rebecca (4 September 2012). "Pyrenean desman: On the trail of Europe's weirdest beast". BBC News.
  4. ^ "Russians rally for water mammal". BBC News. 9 June 2006.
  5. ^ Oparina, O. S., Filinova, E. I., Sonina, E. E., Malinina, Y. A., & Oparin, M. L. (2013). "Current status of the Russian desman habitats in small rivers of the Don River Basin in Saratov oblast and the abundance of this species". Biology Bulletin. 40 (10): 854–861. doi:10.1134/S1062359013100075. S2CID 15623225.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Makhotkina, K.A (March 2013). "COMFORT BEHAVIOR OF RUSSIAN DESMAN (DESMEVA MOSCHATA)". Zoologichesky Zhurnal. 92: 313–321 – via Science Citation Index.

External links[edit]