Iberian desman
Galemys pyrenaicus

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Iberian (Pyrenean) desman
Mass: 35.5-80 g
Body length: 108-135 mm
Tail length: 123-156 mm
Colour: dark greyish brown
Young: 1-5 per litter

Habitat: cold, flowing mountain streams

Diet: aquatic insect larvae, crustaceans and some terrestrial insects; fish may be taken opportunistically

Natural History:

Highly aquatic in nature, Iberian (Pyrenean) desmans, along with Russian desmans, possess an extremely long tail and paddle-like hindfeet that are wider than their forefeet. In other moles, these limb proportions are reversed.

Adept swimmers and accomplished divers, Galemys primarily forage by sifting through stream sediments with their forefeet and long bi-lobed snout in search of aquatic insects. While chiefly nocturnal in habit, these amphibious mammals also exhibit short periods of activity during the day.

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Iberian desman

Range of the Iberian desman Distribution:

Primarily restricted to the edges of swift moving mountain streams in the Iberian Penninsula from southern France into Spain and northern Portugal. The range of this semi-aquatic talpid has declined rapidly within the past century, due to wide-spread water pollution inflicted mortality to their aquatic invertebrate prey items.

Selected Readings:

Castien E. and J. Gosalbez. 1995. Diet of Galemys pyrenaicus (Geoffroy, 1811) in the North of the Iberian peninsula. Netherlands Journal of Zoology 45:422-430.

Gonzalez-Esteban J., E. Castien and J. Gosalbez. 1999. Morphological and colour variation in the Pyrenean desman Galemys pyrenaicus (Geoffroy, 1811). Zeithschrift Fur Saugetierkunde - International Journal of Mammalian Biology 64:1-11.

Palmeirim, J.M and R.S. Hoffman. 1983. Galemys pyrenaicus. Mammalian Species. 207:1-5.

Richard, P.B. 1985. Preadaptation of a Talpidae, the desman of the Pyrenees Galemys pyrenaicus, G. 1811, to semi-aquatic life. Zeitschrift fuer Angewandte Zoologie 72:11-24.

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  (Text © K. Campbell 1998-2009)