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a species of mammals of the insectivorous order from the tribe Desmanini of the subfamily Talpinae of the mole family.

The muskrat is a relict species endemic in the territory of the former USSR. In prehistoric times, it was found in Europe up to the British Isles. Its modern natural range is discontinuous and is mainly limited to the Dnieper, Volga, Don and Ural basins. It is also found in Kazakhstan; in Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus occasionally.

In the Dnieper basin (in the European part of Russia), the muskrat is found along the rivers Iput, Vyazma, Oster, Seim, Svapa of the Smolensk, Bryansk and Kursk regions.

In the Don basin - along the rivers Voronezh, Bityug, Khoper and their tributaries (Voronezh, Tambov, Lipetsk, Saratov, Penza, Volgograd regions).

In the upper reaches of the Volga, it occurs along the rivers Kotorosl (Yaroslavl region) and Unzha (Kostroma region). One of the largest populations has been preserved in the lower reaches of the Klyazma (Vladimir and Ivanovo regions), along the lower reaches of the Moksha and in Tsna (Ryazan and Tambov regions). Common in the lower reaches of the Oka (Vladimir, Ryazan and Nizhny Novgorod regions). However, this population is threatened by the rise of the Cheboksary reservoir[2]. In the middle part of the Volga, it is found along the Sura River (Penza, Ulyanovsk Regions) and along the Alatyr River in Mordovia. Down the Volga, muskrat is rare.

Desmans released in 1961 in the Chelyabinsk region settled down the river Uy in the Kurgan region and moved to the Tobol floodplain.

Kozhevnikovsky district of the Tomsk region in a specialized reserve.

The muskrat is a small mammal. The body is 18–22 cm long, the tail is the same, weight up to 520 g.

The tail is covered with horny scales, and along the top there is also stiff hair forming a keel. At the very base, the tail is, as it were, pulled over (has the smallest diameter). The interception (in the first third of the length of the tail) is followed by a pear-shaped thickening. It contains specific (musky, odorous) glands, the oily musk of which is squeezed out through numerous holes located on the underside of the thickening. Behind the thickening, the tail is strongly compressed laterally.

Proboscis nose[3]. Vibrissae very long; sensitive hairs grow on the body.

The limbs are rather short, 5-toed, the hind feet are larger and wider than the front ones. The fingers to the claws are united by a swimming membrane. Nails well developed, long, slightly curved. Along the edges of all paws there is a border of stiff bristly hair, which increases the swimming surface of the paws.

The fur of the muskrat is thick, velvety, very durable, the hairs of the fur are not arranged like in other animals: they expand towards the top, and narrow towards the root. The color of the back is grayish or dark brown, the abdomen is silver-gray or silver-white. The fur retains air so well that a parasite settles in it - the desman beetle (Silphopsyllus desmanae), unadapted to breathing in water.

The eyes are rudimentary, about the size of a pinhead. Desmans are almost blind, but have a developed sense of smell and touch.

The right half of the heart is thicker and more massive than that of land animals. Water is denser than air and compresses the chest more strongly. To overcome this effect, the muscles of the right ventricle are reinforced with additional muscle fibers.


Further Resources


Learn about the Russian desman found in marshes around the Ural River in Kazakhstan.


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