The Pyrenees mountains in France, and the northern portion of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal)
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
Iberian desmans have many adaptations to their aquatic habitat. These include a long tail, verticaly flattened at the end, and the ability to close their ears and nostrils.
Average mass: 57.5 g.
Habitat and Ecology
Iberian desmans are usually found in cold mountain lakes and rivers with abundant crustaceans and insect larvae.
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains
Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams
Iberian desmans eat larval aquatic insects, crustaceans, and terrestrial insects. They will eat appropriate food whether it is alive or dead. Some people have claimed that Iberian desmans forage away from water, but this is uncertain.
Life History and Behavior
Status: wild: 3.5 years.
Status: wild: 4.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The gestation period is about thirty days. Populations have three estrus peaks in a given breeding season (January-May). Litter size can be from one to five. Sexual maturity is reached in the second year of life.
Average gestation period: 30 days.
Average number of offspring: 4.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 730 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 730 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Galemys pyrenaicus
There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species. See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Galemys pyrenaicus
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Vulnerable(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
IUCN "vulnerable" due to habitat destruction
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
As well as population declines, range contractions have been observed along the western, southern, and eastern edges of the desman's range in Portugal (Cabral et al. 2005).
Climate change is anticipated to be a serious threat to the desman in the near future. The species tends to occur only in areas with annual rainfall superior to 1,000 mm and, given climate change scenarios for Spain, by 2060 the species may be virtually extinct from central Spain and also in most of its important areas from northern Iberia (P. GarcÃa pers. comm. 2007).
The Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) is a small semiaquatic nocturnal mammal related to moles and shrews, and is one of only two surviving species of the tribe Desmanini. The range of the species centers on northern Spain, but it is under threat due to changes to its habitat.
Along with the Russian desman (Desmana moschata), it belongs to the tribe Desmanini. There were previously a greater number of related species some millions of years ago in that tribe, but the other species have all since become extinct.
The Pyrenean desman is 11 to 16 cm (4.3 to 6.3 in) long with a rounded scale-covered tail of 12 to 16 cm (4.7 to 6.3 in). It weighs 35 to 80 g (1.2 to 2.8 oz). Pyrenean desmans have long sensitive noses, and small front paws but large webbed back paws. They can close off their nostrils and ears with valves in order to stop water penetration, and use echolocation.
The desman's body is covered in fur, with the exception of its tail and nose. Markings typical of the species are a brown body with a light coloured underside. The nose is black and is covered in whiskers, 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 nocturnal hunters of small invertebrates, snails and shrimp. 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.
Pyrenean desmans are proficient swimmers, suited to their aquatic habitat, although their claws also allow them to be good at climbing. They live in pairs, with the male having a slightly larger territory than the female. Both members of the pair scent mark. They have the reputation of being aggressive to other adult members of the species.
More recent studies have shown that data on the range of their habitats collected during the 1980s and 1990s is unreliable. Their range had previously been thought of as the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula and the Pyrenees mountains stretching into France. The habitat of the Pyrenean desman is under threat, and research has shown that it "is endangered or almost extinct" in the southern areas of its range. Researchers have determined that this is the result of the construction of dams, and also that the species may be vulnerable to water pollution. Included in their range is the Alt Pirineu Natural Park in the Pyrenees, where desmans live along mountain streams.
Conservation efforts are led by Estrategia Nacional de Conservación del Desmán Ibérico and Proyecto LIFE+ Desmania, with the European Commission contributing 50% of the funding. Threats include dams, aggregate mining, poor water quality, and an invasive species – the American mink.
- Hutterer, R. (2005). "Order Soricomorpha". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Fernandes, M., Herrero, J., Aulagnier, S. & Amori, G. (2008). "Galemys pyrenaicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2012-09-12. Listed as Vulnerable A2ac+3c+4ac.
- Morelle, Rebecca (5 September 2012). "Pyrenean desman: On the trail of Europe's weirdest beast". BBC News. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
- "Pyrenean desman". BBC Science & Nature. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
- Endangered Wildlife and Plants of the World 4. New York: Marshall Cavendish. 2001. ISBN 9780761471981.
- "Instituciones españolas y europeas se unen para salvar al desconocido desmán" [Spanish and European institutions unite to save the little-known desman]. EFE (in Spanish) (LaInformacion.com). 20 September 2013.
- "Una docena de linces ibéricos han nacido este año en Cáceres; El Ejecutivo muestra su apoyo decidido a la conservación del desmán ibérico" [A dozen Iberian lynx were born this year in Caceres; Official shows his firm support for Iberian desman conservation]. Europa Press (in Spanish). 20 September 2013.
- Rico, Javier (14 October 2013). "El punto de mira está en un pequeño ser acuático" [Spotlight on a small aquatic creature]. El Pais (in Spanish).