endemic to a single state or province
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (<100-250 square km (less than about 40-100 square miles)) Known distribution is limited to flats around Gustavus (Home 1973) and Bartlett Cove, Alaska. Type locality is Cooper's Notch muskeg behind Point Gustavus, Glacier Bay, Alaska.
Jackson (1928) distinguished Sorex (palustris) alaskanus from S. p. navigator by cranial measurements. He noted that alaskanus skulls are shorter, heavier, more angular, and have a shorter rostrum. The sagittal and lambdoidal crests are also more pronounced.
Catalog Number: USNM 97713
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): A. Fisher
Year Collected: 1899
Locality: Glacier Bay, Point Gustavus, Alaska, United States, North America
- Type: Merriam, C. H. 1900 Mar 14. Proceedings of the Washington Academy of Sciences. 2: 18.
Comments: Presumably the habitat includes wet areas, bogs, and streams typical of S. palustris elsewhere (Beneski and Stinson 1987).
Habitat and Ecology
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
Comments: Known from just a couple locations, based on specimens collected in 1899 and 1970.
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NH - Possibly Extirpated
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: GH - Possibly Extinct
Reasons: Very restricted range in a small area of Alaska; abundance and population trend are unknown; taxonomy is uncertain, based on only a few specimens; perhaps should be included in Sorex palustris.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Global Short Term Trend: Unknown
Global Long Term Trend: Unknown
Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses
Comments: No current threats to habitat are known, but the poorly known distribution prevents an adequate evaluation. Urban development in the Gustavus area could potentially result in reduction and loss of habitat.
Biological Research Needs: This species is not currently being monitored. Factors affecting population size and distribution are unknown. Present research needs include: 1. Clarification of taxonomic status. 2. Population trend estimates. 3. Precise delineation of distribution. 4. Habitat preference studies. 5. Long-term viability analysis.
Global Protection: Few (1-3) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Comments: Part of the range is in Glacier Bay National Park. In Alaska, shrews are designated as "unclassified game" by the Department of Fish and Game (1992). There is no closed season or bag limit on this species.
Glacier Bay water shrew
The Glacier Bay water shrew (Sorex alaskanus) is a species of mammal in the family Soricidae. It is endemic to Alaska in the United States. It can swim underwater, and when it stops swimming, air trapped in its fur lets it float back up to the surface. Owing to small hairs on its feet, the water shrew can run across the water. Its fur is water resistant, although if it does get wet it returns to shore to dry itself with its hind feet. It eats aquatic fly nymphs and terrestrial invertebrates.
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Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Preliminary molecular evidence bearing on the taxonomic status of S. alaskensis suggests full species status is unwarranted (K. Hildebrandt, UAM, pers. comm, cited in MacDonald and Cook 2009). Recognized as a distinct species, S. alaskanus, by Jackson (1928). Some literature regards alaskanus as a subspecies of S. palustris (Junge and Hoffman 1981; Jarrel and MacDonald 1989; Jones et al. 1992; Harris, in Wilson and Ruff 1999), whereas other authors have regarded S. alaskanus as a distinct species (Hall 1981; Beneski and Stinson 1987; George 1988; Hutterer, in Wilson and Reeder 1993, 2005; Carraway 1995; Baker et al. 2003). Inadequate material has prevented conclusive studies (Cook et al. 1997).
Fumagalli et al. (1999) present a phylogenetic analysis of the genus Sorex based on partial mitochondrial cytochrome b DNA sequences.