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Common Name: Russian Desman

Scientific Name: Desmana moschata

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Insectivora

Family: Talpidae

Genus: Desmana

Species: D. moschata

The Russian Desman is a small semi-aquatic mammal. It has a long, grooved snout that is flexible. The tail is scaly, flat, and is wide at the base. Sense glands are found at the bottom of the tail and have a musky fragrant smell. Their coat is brown and red and is bi-layered. The coat has a short and long stiff outer layer. The back feet are completely webbed but the front are only partially webbed. The Desman’s webbed feet allow the Russian Desman to swim at a rapid pace. The body is mostly covered with sensory hairs. The body is 18-21 cm long with a tail that is 17-20 cm long. The Russian Desman looks a lot like a muskrat but is part of the mole family. It uses its sensitive snout to look for food because it is functionally blind. The Russian Desman is the largest in the mole species weighing 400-500 g.


The Russian Desman lives in fresh, slow moving streams, lakes, and ponds. They need a continual supply of water. The Russian Desman is found in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Their nests are set on the shoreline under vegetation. Because the Russian Desman eats organisms in the water, fish, amphibian, and insects all the entrances to their burrows go from the nest to below the water. The Russian Desman is a friendly species. Because of their friendly nature, there can be up to eight others sharing the same nest. They mainly roam at night and are rarely seen in the daytime. They tend to move around a lot because of water levels changing. Their nests are threatened when the water level rises so they migrate to places with lower water levels. With the rising water levels, their nests are often found in trees and bushes.


For their rich and thick fur, the Russian Desman were killed so hunters could trade it. Hunters also hunted them for their musk glands that they would use in perfumes. This caused the population to decrease. Other reasons for their decreasing population are pollution, illegal fishing nets, and non native species like the muskrat. In the 1970’s the estimation of their population was 70,000. In 2004, the estimated population was 35,000. Today, the Russian Desman is protected under the Russian law. With the passing of this law, the number of the species is increasing in some of the Russian regions. Their estimated population now is 40,000-50,000.


The Russian Desman can eat several times their body weight. Their flexible snouts are used to poke into the ground to reach their food. They are good swimmers and they can catch small fish in the water. They also eat invertebrates, mollusk, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects. They swim along the bottom of their environment to look for food. The Russian Desman makes trenches between its burrows leaving its musky scent. The musky sent gets the attention of its prey luring it to the trenches. It also uses the smell of their tail to mark their territory. This helps it know how to get back to the shore when in the water.


The Russian Desman’s main predators are fishing nets, hunting, man, environment destruction, and run-in’s with invasive animals. They sniff the air to see if there is any danger around. They are hunted for their soft fur and the dried musk from their tail is used to make perfumes and colognes. It was also used for linens to keep the moths away. The Soviet governments soon banded this. This animal will soon be extinct due to these problems. Now the people are working twice as hard to restore its existence. In 2002-2003 the Russian government released 40 Desmans in to the wild.


Author: Summer C

Published: 02/2007


Bibliography Author’s Name: Yates, T.L. Title: Order and Families of Recent Mammals Place of Publication: New York Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Year: 1984 Title of Website: Date of Access: 02/21/07 URL: Title of Website: Animal Diversity Date of Access: 02/20/07 URL: Title of Website: Wikipedia Date of Access: 02/21/07 URL:


Photo Credit: www.virtualclassroom.endang_russia_denim.html






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