The Pyrenean desman is related to shrews and moles, is semi-aquatic, and oh so odd looking. They can be found in the northern and central parts of Spain and Portugal, French Pyrenees, and Andorra. There are 2 known species of desmans: the European and the Russian. We will focus on the European desman. These strange critters prefer fast-flowing, mountain rivers with shallow water, good riparian habitats, canals, lakes, and marshes. Due to habitat destruction, disease, invasive species, pollution, and climate change, these unique creatures are listed as Endangered. Their populations are also decreasing.
First the Stats…
Scientific name: Galemys pyrenaicus
Weight: Up to 2.8 ounces
Length: Up to 5.5 inches, plus up to a 6.3 inch tail
Lifespan: Up to 3.5 years
Now on to the Facts!
1.) Desmans are nocturnal (active at night).
2.) Pyrenean desmans are also very territorial.
3.) Due to their webbed feet, they are excellent swimmers.
4.) They have a long, sensitive nose equipped with hypertrophic vibrissae and chemo-/mechanosensitive Eimer’s organs that aid in prey detection.
5.) These feisty little critters are very aggressive towards other adult desmans and tend to brawl on sight.
But wait, there’s more on the Pyrenean desman!
6.) During the day, they will take shelter amongst stones and roots around stream banks or in burrows previously constructed by water voles. On occasions, they will dig their own burrows.
7.) These primarily insectovorous (eat bugs) animals will prey on aquatic insect larvae and nymphs, crustaceans, and will even take small fish if the opportunity arises.
Did you know…?
Most would-be predators avoid desmans as their musk appears to taste bad. So it acts as a successful predator deterrent.
8.) They are monogamous (mate for life) and breed up to 3 times a year.
9.) Females birth up to 4 pups each breeding session.
10.) North American muskrats and minks both prey on desmans.
Now a Short Desman Video!
It’s on the Russian desman, but both species are very similar.
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