This species is little known in Lao PDR, where one recent sighting was in Fokienia forest at about 1,500 m in Nam Xam National Biodiversity Conservation Area (within 20°02' to 14' N and 104° 18' to 53' E) in January 1998 (Showler et al. 1998), though historical records came from Xiangkhouang town (19° 20' N and 103° 22' E) in 1926, Phongsaly town in 1929 (Osgood 1932, Delacour 1940), and the Bolaven Plateau (within 14° 42' to 15° 30' N and 106° 15' to 50' E) at about 1,200 to 1,400 m in 1932 (Tizard 2002, Legendre 1932). In 2004 and 2005 it was recorded in Phongsaly, the northernmost province in Lao, on Phou Fa (=Fa mountain, 21° 41' N and 102° 06' E, 1,550 m) and close to Ban Bakong (=Bakong village, 21° 37' N 102° 05' E, 1,200 m) (Duckworth and Robichaud 2005).
Historically, most of the records of this species in Southeast Asia come from the northern highlands of Viet Nam, though there are two recent records to the south, in the Annamite mountains of central Viet Nam (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005), one was recorded in primary evergreen forest at 1,000 m in A Vuong proposed Nature Reserve, Tay Giang district, Quang Nam Province (16° 00' N and 107° 30' E) in 2003 (Long et al, 2004) and another in the Ngoc Linh highlands at about 15 degree N latitude in the late 1990s (J. C. Eames in litt. 1999). It may yet be found to extend even farther south in Indochina (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005). In Thailand, there are no historical records, though it apparently occurs in the northern highlands (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005), as Vikorn (2001) reported a roadkill specimen of Mustela nivalis from Doi Pha Luang station, which Duckworth later determined was Mustela katiah. (and not M. nivalis as it was previously identified). There are multiple skins of this species from Myanmar, all collected in the north (Pocock, 1941: 359, Than Zaw et al. in press.).
The dorsal surfaces of the pelt, including the tail, are dark brown, while the ventral surfaces are yellowish. The tail is more than half the length of the head and body. The upper lip, chin and throat are a lighter yellow-white color. The foot pads are well developed and exposed. The soles of the hind feet are bald (Hussain 1999; Sterndale 1992). Head and body length is from 250 to 270 mm, tail length from 125 to 150 mm (Nowak, 1997).
Average mass: 1.56 kg.
Range length: 250 to 270 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Habitat and Ecology
Mustela kathiah prefers pine forests and is sometimes found above the timber line (Nowak and Paradiso 1983).
Range elevation: 1,800 to 4,000 m.
Habitat Regions: terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains
Yellow-bellied weasels eat mostly rodents such as mice, rats, and voles. They will also eat birds and small mammals (Nowak and Paradiso 1983; Jha 1999). Excellent sight, hearing, and sense of smell enables Mustela kathiah to easily track its prey. With its lean build, it is able to chase rats and mice in their burrows and kill them with a bite to the neck.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
It is likely that M. katiah acts to control rodent populations in the areas where it lives.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Longevity in M. katiah may be similar to that of other mustelids. A captive M. sibirica lived to an age of 8 years and 10 months. In the wild it is likely that mustelids live for several years after reaching adulthood.
The mating system and behavior of M. katiah is unknown.
Little is known about reproductive behavior of Mustela kathiah. A den is built in a hole in the ground or under rocks or logs (Jha, 1999). If reproductive behavior in M. katiah is like that of its close relative, M. erminea, then breeding occurs annually with mating occurring in late spring or early summer and implantation of fertilized eggs delayed until the following spring. Females are therefore pregnant for approximately 10 months but gestation time is closer to 1 month in duration. Births occur in April and May with litter sizes ranging from 3 to 18. Females may become sexually mature in their first summer, males will reach sexual maturity after 1 year of age (Nowak, 1997).
Breeding season: Late spring and early summer.
Range number of offspring: 3 to 18.
Average gestation period: 1 months.
Range weaning age: 6 to 8 weeks.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 to 12 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 12 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous ; delayed implantation
If reproduction in M. katiah is similar to that in M. erminea then young are blind and helpless at birth but increase in size rapidly until about 8 weeks of age, when they are capable of hunting on their own. Females care for their young in the den until they gain independence (Nowak, 1997).
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Mustela kathiah
There is 1 barcode sequence available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is the 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. Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Mustela kathiah
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern
Yellow-bellied weasels are listed in Schedule II part II of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Appendix III of CITES, and DD during the CAMP Workshop (Hussain 1999). Substantial research on their biology and population status is required to make informed decisions about their protection.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix iii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects of M. katiah on humans.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Yellow-bellied weasels are easily tamed and can be used to control rodents within human structures (Sterndale 1982).
Positive Impacts: controls pest population
The yellow-bellied weasel (Mustela kathiah) is a species of weasel. It lives in the pine forests of Bhutan, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam. The yellow-bellied weasel is rated "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List. The yellow-bellied weasel is named for its yellow-colored underbelly. The top of its body and the tail are dark brown. Yellow-bellied weasels have a body length of 9.8-10.6 inches (25–27 cm.) and a tail length of 4.9-5.9 inches (12.5–15 cm.). The tail is about half the length of the body. Yellow-bellied weasels weigh approximately 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg.).
Yellow-bellied weasels eat birds, mice, rats, voles, and other small mammals.
Researchers believe that the reproductive behavior of the yellow-bellied weasel is similar to that of the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea). Yellow-bellied weasels first build a den in the ground. Breeding occurs annually. Mating occurs in late spring or early summer. Females are pregnant for about ten months. The female gives birth to 3-18 kits in April or May. By the time the kits are eight weeks old, they are ready to go out and hunt on their own.
There are two subspecies of the yellow-bellied weasel:
- Mustela kathiah caporiaccoi
- Mustela kathiah kathiah
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