The Russian desman (''Desmana moschata'') (russian: выхухоль ''vykhukhol'') is a small List of semiaquatic tetrapods, semiaquatic mammal that inhabits the Volga river, Volga, Don River, Russia, Don and Ural River basins in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It constructs burrows into the banks of ponds and slow-moving streams, but prefers small, overgrown ponds with abundance of insects, crayfish and amphibians. The Russian desman often lives in small (usually not related) groups of two to five animals, and appears to have a complex (but largely unstudied) communication and presocial, social system.


The Russian desman is one of two surviving Monotypic taxon, species of the tribe ''Desmanini'', the other being the Pyrenean desman. Despite its outward similarity to muskrats (a rodent), the Russian desman is actually part of the mole (animal), mole family Talpidae in the order Eulipotyphla. Like other moles, it is functionally blind and obtains much of its sensory input from the touch-sensitive Eimer's organs at the end of its long, bilobed snout. However, the hind feet are webbed and the tail is laterally flattened —specializations for its aquatic habitat. The body is long while the tail is in length. Easily the largest species of mole, it weighs . Decidedly rich and thick in nature, desman fur used to be highly sought after by the fur trade. Consequently, the Russian desman is now a protected species under Russian law. However, due to loss of habitat (farming), water pollution, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, illegal fishing nets, and the introduction of non-native species like muskrat, population levels continue to decline. In the mid-1970s, an estimated 70,000 desmans were left in the wild; by 2004, the figure was only 35,000. However, in some Russian regions, the number of desmans appears to be increasing.

Distribution and habitat

From 2009 to 2011, the Don Basin rivers were searched for Russian desman to evaluate if this environment was sustainable for the species. No evidence was found that the species lives in this area but if so, the population was very small. The limiting factors consist of global factors, interspecific  processes, and new immigrating species in the river ecosystem.


Russian desman provide comfort to themselves by grooming. More specifically, scratching with hind feet, washing, biting out of nails, and biting out of fur. The main reasons for these actions are supporting the air layer and heat-insulating properties of fur.


External links

* * * ARKive
images and movies of the Russian desman ''(Desmana moschata)''
{{Taxonbar, from=Q381760 Talpidae Mammals of Asia Mammals of Europe, Desman, Russian Mammals of Central Asia Mammals of Russia Fauna of Ukraine Endangered animals, Desman, Russian Endangered biota of Europe Endangered biota of Asia Mammals described in 1758 Taxa named by Carl Linnaeus Semiaquatic mammals