Muskrat - animalliving on our planet for about 40 million years! Despite its small size, it has every chance to impress you with its history, character and appearance.
It’s scary to imagine whom this creature did not manage to meet on its life path! I managed to survive the terrifying predators and giant mammoths, safely reaching the 21st century, while retaining the appearance and not losing our personality.
Description and Features
Muskrat on a photo portrayed by a cute and funny animal that is always interested in something. In its appearance there are a number of specific features. The first feature that attracts widespread attention is, of course, the creature’s nose.
It has an elongated shape, is very mobile and pretty. Anyway, the charming muzzle of the desman will not leave anyone indifferent. You can swear that she constantly smiles at you. It is not in vain that this animal is also often called the "Khokhule".
As for the teeth, two front fangs are outstanding and basic for the animal. It is they, large and sharp, that perform almost all the functions in the extraction of feed. In space, the desman is guided mainly by relying on his own hearing. Her sense of smell is weak. And with vision, things are even worse. Her pupils practically do not react even to very bright light. In the water, the animal just completely closes its eyes.
This mammal most often issues its voice in spring, during mating flirting, when the male tries to catch up with the female. These trills smoothly turn into groans. And the female at the same time also begins to make invocative sounds. Maybe grumble like a real old man. When meeting with the enemy, the animal clicks terribly and becomes in a fighting position on its hind legs.
The desman is a small beast. Its weight rarely reaches 600 grams. And the sizes fluctuate within 25-27 cm. The animal is completely covered with thick, short and dense fur. Moreover, he is also special. The hairs, upon closer inspection, are extended to their ends. The appearance of this creature most resembles a mole, but also has its own exceptional features.
The desman, like the mole, is practically blind. But she has a rather long and powerful tail, which is an indispensable assistant in her habitual habitat - water. The tail is approximately equal to the length of the body, has a flat shape and is covered with scales.
Can not do description animal muskratwithout mentioning that its tail is notable for exuding a wonderful aroma of night violets. It just contains special glands containing musk. So he then serves as the source of this wonderful smell.
By the way, and thanks to this feature, too, these mammals were massively exterminated at one time, using their tails in the perfume industry. And the hostesses liked to indulge in the fact that they filled their chests with linen with their ponytails for aroma.
In general, their fur has always been highly valued. And this entailed hunting and constant extermination. Until finally, the population of these animals has not significantly decreased. Animal Red the books muskrat is now under state protection.
As for the nature of this creature, it is quite complex and vulnerable. She is distinguished by a noticeable sensitivity and irritability. For example, more than once it was noticed that with a sudden loud sound, a desman can easily die from a broken heart!
Her legs are very short, webbed. That is why she has a funny, clubfoot and awkward gait. But it is only on earth. When she finally gets to the water, everything changes. Out of nowhere, the magnificent grace of a professional swimmer appears. Muskrat masterfully maneuvers in water. She is dodgy and agile.
There are two species of desman: Russian and Pyrenees. Let us consider in detail each of them.
Russian desman. It is worth noting that it differs from its Pyrenean cousin mainly in size and habitat. It is much larger. Incidentally, this is the only animal in the scientific name of which the word "Russian" is present!
Despite the fact that this mammal has lived with us from time immemorial, not every person had the opportunity to get to know him better. The fact is that the desman prefers a rather hidden lifestyle.
And to meet her freely traveling the earth is almost impossible. She either hides in her mink, or spends time in the water, getting food. The Russian desman is found in almost all river basins of the European part of the country.
Pyrenean desman. This species of animal is more modest in size and is found mainly in the Pyrenees - spending its days in the mountain rivers of Western Europe. She is much smaller in mass and dimensions than her closest Russian counterpart. The length of her body does not exceed 15-16 cm, and weight - 75-80 grams. The limbs of the animal are dark, but the tail is lighter.
During the day he almost always sleeps, but at night he is as active as possible. It feeds only in the afternoon. The female of this mammal is not very prolific. Its annual offspring does not exceed 5 cubs. The average duration of her life is 3 years.
Lifestyle & Habitat
The desman spend their lives on land (rather underground, in burrows), and on water (rather under water, forage for themselves). The appearance of living creatures speaks of its lifestyle. She is almost blind, because underground and under water the ability to see is not a particular advantage for her.
As for the land, its burrows are located here at the desman. These are complex multi-level moves resembling high-class engineering structures. Moreover, they begin even under water. In addition, the animal, unashamedly, also uses beaver burrows to run from one structure to another.
About beavers here we need to talk separately. It so happened that he and the desman are unusually friendly. And their areas of residence often coincide. Beaver, by the way, has nothing against his pretty neighbor. The fact is that helminths, which so annoy the beaver so often and hide in river mollusks, with pleasure parasitize on the body of mammals. For which, apparently, a larger animal patiently blows them. It is said that there were times when a desman simply climbed onto the beaver's back while he crossed the river.
Under water, it can last about 6 minutes. This is a lot and a little. She has enough of this time to dive and grab something tasty. But in water, in addition to natural predators in the form of large pikes and catfish, the desman lies in wait for another danger - fishing nets!
If the animal falls into them, it begins to panic and gets confused. And since only a very short period of time can spend under water, it is practically doomed. The desman dies and save it can only be entered in the Red Book.
A person is simply obliged to come to the rescue of this, for it is the greatest danger to this endangered species of animal. And if in Soviet times, poachers were fought quite effectively, now the situation has changed.
This is due to the fact that a lot of Chinese cheap products appeared on the market, including fishing nets, at very low prices. Now every fisherman can afford to buy one. And this entailed the massive use of nets in fishing.
This dealt a severe blow to the number of muskrats remaining in Russia. One such network thrown into the river can immediately destroy a whole family of these animals. In addition, the annual deterioration in the quality of the habitat, the increasing pollution of rivers and the surrounding nature, and the growing cattle breeding, do not improve the picture of the future of this animal.
The best residences for desman are small ponds with a depth of 4-6 meters. The presence of sufficiently dry shores with plenty of vegetation will also be mandatory. Almost all the time this beast spends in its hole, the entrance to which is hidden under water. And the underground passage can sometimes reach 4 meters in length.
The moves are constructed in such a way that they have narrow and wide sections. Therefore, when spring comes, and the river overflows, water fills wide places in dug holes of the desman, and the animals themselves manage to safely escape by running away and sheltering on some object passing by.
In summer, these mammals live mostly alone, sometimes you can meet a couple. But in winter the picture changes completely. In one mink you can see immediately up to 14 animals! These "houses" are considered temporary and each animal has a similar one.
A very great advantage over other mammals is the ability of a desman for a long time to be under water. She inhales air with her long nose, without even diving out of the pond. And then, diving deeper, it releases bubbles in a few minutes.
In winter, these bubbles turn into peculiar voids, making the ice brittle and loose. This and, of course, the musky smell of the animal attracts various mollusks here. As we see, the animal does not need to particularly try to find food for itself, it itself follows him on the heels.
But the hot summer is becoming a really difficult test for the desman. When the pond dries up, she has to move to a new place of residence, and with her eyesight this is not an easy task. In addition, as we recall, on the earth it is not so mobile and, with a high probability, can become easy prey for any predator.
These cute animals are omnivorous gluttons. Their daily diet may exceed their own weight. The menu of the beast is varied and unpretentious. Most of all he loves small river mollusks, leeches, larvae and insects. With pleasure he will drag a fish or even a frog into his mink.
In general, the desman is considered simply a wonderful hunter. The main assistants in the search for food for her are the antennae. It is they who, working as original antennas, capture the slightest vibrations in the air and water, allowing the animal to navigate perfectly in search of what flies, crawls and swims.
Previously, the desman was accused of allegedly destroying fish in very large quantities. In fact, this is not true. Our animal is able to catch only weakened, sick or wounded fish. So we add one more to all the merits of a desman - she is a recognized reservoir attendant!
In addition to carnivorous preferences, the animal has vegetarian inclinations. Sometimes it does not deny itself a menu of rich river vegetation. Everything is used, from the stems to the fruits.
As mentioned above, when the air exhales under water, the desman creates bubbles, which, when swimming, form entire plumes that attract the attention of river plankton. The animal only needs to swim along the same path and collect all of them. This, in principle, a desman is quite enough for food both in the summer and in the winter.
But, sometimes she lacks thrills, and she bravely throws herself at a rather large fish or frog, trying to grab it. Most likely, the opponent will still leave, however, no one has yet canceled his dreams. And, of course, the most desman in nature has many enemies. These are almost all predators from the zone of its habitat: ferret, fox, ermine, kite and golden eagle.
Reproduction and longevity
And in this matter, the desman differs from many representatives of the animal world and behaves, somehow, very humanly. The fact is that the animal can enter into marriage all year round. Of course, spring is a priority. But, excuse me, and in some people special hormonal surges were noticed in the spring.
The mating games of our hero are associated with real battles for the attention of the beloved. During this period, the male recruits incredible courage and courage, which undoubtedly helps him in the battle with his rival.
Fights make a lot of noise, but, fortunately, quickly end. And a happy couple of newlyweds quickly retire to their mink to perform such an important function - to increase the population of desman.
Without resting for a minute, immediately after fertilization, the female turns into a builder. And in a matter of hours, she creates a nest, where babies will be born. It should be noted that mom will practically cease to leave this shelter until a new generation is born.
The gestational age of the desman is approximately one and a half months. Note that mom is just wonderful from her. She is very touching and affectionate about her babies, paying maximum attention to everyone, constantly chasing, feeding them and not leaving for a minute.
After some time, parents are preparing nearby another nest, which is a "reserve airfield", which allows them to hide with offspring in case of sudden danger. And, while the female is evacuated along with the offspring, the fearless father distracts the enemy's attention to himself.
In one marriage, as a rule, up to six cubs are born. And if, the territory for construction is not large enough, then several families can unite in one mink. Moreover, they coexist quite peacefully.
A few months later, the young generation leaves the parental home, following the call of nature and starting an independent path. With a sense of accomplishment, parents thank each other for a great time and scatter in different directions. They may intersect in the future, but are unlikely to recognize each other.
But in general, a lot of things in the behavior and life of this creature still remain a big mystery for a person. Different cases were described by people who were lucky enough to meet a desman on their way. Some say that the animal is so voracious that it continues to gobble up prey even when it is held upside down by the tail.
In another story, he refused to eat for long days. They say that a frightened descent mother is capable of gnawing all her offspring. And other sources claim that even when caught in a cage, she does not stop feeding her babies.
With full confidence, one can say one thing for now: when kept in captivity, the desman quickly enough adapts to new conditions, assimilates and can even dine out of your hands. But no one has managed to completely tame it yet. She is not attached to anyone. She has a rather complex nervous character.
Well, once again breaking free, she immediately loses all the features of a domestic animal and acquires its former status as a wild animal. And all that a person can do is to provide maximum protection to this wonderful, forever smiling creature.
Do not forget that the desman lived here much longer than us. But it was we who caused her almost complete disappearance. The time has come to show who we are - friends or enemies of nature, which all the time supports us, generously supplying our resources and filling the world with beauty.