While the Russian desman may outwardly appear to be a rodent, it is in fact a member of the mole family.
Like moles it is also functionally blind, instead using its touch-sensitive Eimer’s organs at the end of its long snout to sense its surroundings. They also have webbed feet, indicating its’ aquatic lifestyle. The Russian desman is the only member of its genus Desmana, and its closest relative the Pyrenean desman is also the sole member of its genus, Galemys. The Russian desman is primarily threatened by the widespread use of fixed fishing nets, the low cost and high durability of modern nets means that poachers often leave them in the water for days or even months. A desman dies within 5-10 minutes of being trapped in a net. They are also threatened by habitat loss and degradation from water pollution, and agricultural exploitation and modification of flood plains.
- Order: Eulipotyphla
- Family: Talpidae
- Population: Rare
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 18-21cm
- Weight: 400-520g
This species occurs in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Its current range is very fragmented. It disappeared from Ukraine, but was reintroduced in the 1950s.
Habitat and Ecology
They are riparian (live in holes along oxbow lakes, and less frequently by rivers and ponds). They prefer water bodies with rich water-marsh vegetation, bushes and primary forests along the banks. They are omnivorous, feeding on at least 72 species of water invertebrates and 30 plant species, as well as fish and amphibians.