Nilgiri martens (Martes gwatkinsii) are endemic to the western Ghats mountain range of southern India, which is found within the oriental geographic range.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Nilgiri martens average around 2.1 kg. Their body lengths are anywhere from 55 to 65 cm, with their tail length being anywhere from 40 to 45 cm. As a marten, they have a high basal metabolic rate. Their coat color is brown with a very distinct yellow or orange throat patch. Nilgiri martens are similiar in size and appearance to yellow-throated martens. Nilgiri martens are distinguished by their slightly larger size and by the structure of their skulls. Nilgiri marten braincases are flattened above with a prominent frontal concavity.
Average mass: 2.1 kg.
Range length: 55 to 65 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Nilgiri martens occur predominantly in the moist tropical rainforests of southern India at an altitudinal range of 300 to 1200 m. There have been reports of sightings in coffee, cardamom, wattle plantations, swamps, grasslands, deciduous forests, and montane-evergreen forests.
Range elevation: 300 to 1200 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Habitat and Ecology
This species is partly frugivorous and insectivorous (Balakrishnan 2005), but will prey opportunistically on almost any small bird or mammal (Pocock 1941), including Indian chevrotain and monitor lizards (Varanus bengalensis; Mudappa 1999), mouse deer (Moschiola memmina; Mudappa 2002), and it occasionally even feeds on nectar (Hutton, 1944).
Martens are omnivorous. Nilgiri martens are partly frugivorous and insectivorous. They are believed to be good hunters and frequently kill and eat small mammals and birds. There have even been reports of Nilgiri martens hunting chevrotains, monitor lizards, crows, Indian giant squirrels, and cicadas. They have also been known to consume nectar in the form of honey.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; insects
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Insectivore ); herbivore (Frugivore ); omnivore
Mustelids mainly impact their environments through their effects on prey populations. "Given their strong associations with structural complexity in forests, marten and the fisher are often considered as useful barometers of forest health and have been used as ecological indicators, flagship, and umbrella species in different parts of the world, particularly in the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia. Thus, efforts to successfully conserve and manage martens and fishers are associated with the ecological fates of other forest dependent species and can greatly influence ecosystem integrity within forests that are increasingly shared among wildlife and humans (Harrison, Fuller and Proulx, 2005)."
Nilgiri martens have no known natural predators. However, as a small carnivore it could be vulnerable to predation by any larger predators in the area. Large predators in the Western Ghats region of southern India include leopards, sloth bears, dholes, and tigers.
Life History and Behavior
Given Nilgiri martens presumably social nature, they likely communicate both vocally and chemically, through scent marking, similiarly to other martens. They likely use sight, scent, touch, and sound to perceive their environment, although little is currently known about their communication.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The lifespan of Nilgiri martens is currently unknown. However, a close relative, yellow-throated martens, has been known to live on average 14 years in captivity. Other martens have been known to live on average 10 to 18.1 years in captivity.
Status: captivity: 14 years.
The reproductive habits of the Nilgiri martens have not been studied. Many mustelids are polygynous, however, yellow-throated martens are known to be monogamous. As Nilgiri martens closest relatives they are presumed to share many biological and behavioral traits; therefore it is likely that Nilgiri martens are also monogamous.
Nilgiri martens reproductive habits have not been exclusively studied. However, we can presume similar reproductive behaviors to close relatives yellow-throated martens and other mustelids. Most mustelids breed seasonally. Yellow-throated martens breed between either February and March or between June and August; Nilgiri martens may follow a similar reproductive schedule. Other species of Martens undergo delayed implantation. Gestation typically lasts 30 to 65 days for mustelids. Gestation periods of yellow-throated martens last between 220 and 290 days. It is unknown whether Nilgiri martena have a similarly long gestation period as yellow-throated martens. Generally, mustelids are altricial, being born small and blind. Information on the growth and development of Nilgiri martens have not been documented. Yellow-throated martens have been recorded to have 2 to 6 kits per litter.
Breeding interval: Most mustelids breed seasonally.
Breeding season: Most mustelid breeding seasons lasts between 3 to 4 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; delayed implantation
No information is available regarding the parental investment of Nilgiri martens. Other mustelids are altricial, are weaned at 6 to 8 weeks and receive parental care until about 3 to 4 months.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Nilgiri martens are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and is listed under Appendix III under the CITES appendices. "This species is listed as Vulnerable because its entire extent of occurrence is less than 20,000 km², its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its forest habitat in the six discontinuous national parks where is occurs. In addition, remaining populations are severely fragmented due to a continuing decline in the extent and quality of habitat (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 2012)".
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix iii
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Vulnerable(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
- 1994Vulnerable(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Indeterminate(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Indeterminate(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
This species occurs in several protected areas. Some of these include Rajamala Eravikulam National Park (Madhusudan 1995), Mukkurthi National Park (Yoganand and Kumar 1995, 1999), Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary and Silent Valley National Park (Christopher and Jayson 1996), Sholayar (Vijayan 1979), Upper Bhavani (Gokula and Ramachandran 1996), Brahmagiri (Schreiber et al. 1989), Kalakkadu-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (Mudappa, 2001), Periyar Tiger Reserve (Kurup and Joseph, 2001), and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (Balakrishnan, 2005). It was also sighted in Silent Valley National Park, Attappadi Reserve Forest, Muthikkulam South Reserve Forest, and Nilambur South Reserve Forest by Balakrishnan (2005).
Schreiber et al. (1989) recommended field surveys to locate remaining populations and determine if existing reserves give adequate protection. Accordingly, a systematic survey has been conducted following the recommendation of the action plan. Although poaching incidents are not frequent in protected areas, measures to regulate hunting outside of these areas are ineffective, especially in lowland forests (Balakrishnan 2005). There is a need for more survey work, and more protected areas, especially in the lower altitudes of its range, and in particular the forests contiguous to Silent Valley National Park (Balakrishnan 2005).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Nilgiri martens have been reported raiding local bee hives and therefore has been considered a pests by local bee farmers. However, the scarcity of Nilgiri martens leads researchers to believe that the impact on the local honey industry is minimal.
Nilgiri martens have been reported to be hunted for human consumption. However, due to the rarity of the species, it is unlikely that Nilgiri martens are an important food source. It is also unlikely that the fur of Nilgiri martens is valuable, as the fur of its closest relatives, yellow-throated martens, is considered to be of little value.
The Nilgiri marten is similar to the yellow-throated marten, but is larger and essentially different in the structure of the skull – it has a prominent frontal concavity. It is unmistakable in the field as it is dark above with a bright throat ranging in colour from yellow to orange. which is the deep brown from head to rump, the forequarters being almost reddish.
It is about 55 to 65 cm long from head to vent and has a tail of 40 to 45 cm. It weighs about 2.1 kg.
Ecology and behaviour
Very little is known about the Nilgiri marten. It is diurnal, and though arboreal, descends to the ground occasionally. It is reported to prey on birds, small mammals and insects such as cicadas.
- Choudhury, A., Wozencraft, C., Muddapa, D. & Yonzon, P. (2008). Martes gwatkinsii. 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
- "The Book Of Indian Animals, S.H.PRATER Bombay Natural History Society, Oxford University Press, 2005".
- "Zoological Survey of India, Pune". Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
- Christopher, G. & Jayson, E.A. (1996) Sightings of Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsii Horsfield) at Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary and Silent Valley National Park, Kerala, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 15, 3–4.
- Madhusudan, M.D. (1995) Sighting of the Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsii) at Eravikulam National Park, Kerala, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 13, 6–7.
- Gokula, V. & Ramachandran, N.K. (1996) A record of the Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsii Horsfield). J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 93, 82.
- Mudappa, D. 1999 Lesser known carnivores of the Western Ghats IN ENVIS Bulletin : Wildlife, Protected areas: Mustelids, Viverrids and Herpestides of India 2(2): 65–70 Publisher: Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, Editor: S. A. Hussain.
- Balakrishnan, P. (2005) Recent sightings and habitat characteristics of the endemic Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsii in Western Ghats, India.
- Krishna, K. & Karnad, D. (2010) New records of the Nilgiri marten Martes gwatkinsii in the Western Ghats, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 43, 23–27.
- Hutton, A.F. (1944) Feeding habits of the Nilgiri marten. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 48, 374–375
- "Nilgiri marten Martes gwatkinsii Horsfield, 1851". Archived from the original on September 15, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
- The book of Indian Animals S.H.Prater, Bombay Natural History Society, Oxford University Press, 2005
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