by Yevgeniya SIDOROVA, journalist
This small animal of the insect-eaters order is sometimes called a water mole. Like its land relative, the Russian desman (Desmana moschata), or muskrat, is short-sighted, does not like daylight and only at dusk it comes out of its underground digs, an intricate labyrinth of underground tunnels on a high bank of a forest lake or river leading directly underwater. However, the fate of this cautious animal, which is found solely in our country, is dramatic, and this species is entered in the Red List of the World Conservation Union and the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation with the note "a decreasing, rare and relict species". According to scientists, the present state of the desman population reflects the degradation of flooded lands, which this animal inhabits. The poor level of environmental protection also has a part. Can people stop such undesirable processes?
NOT LOSING FACE FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS
The Russian authority on insect-eating mammals, Dr. Sergey Stroganov (1904-1960), singled out the desman into an independent family of Desmanidae, pointing to the structure of its skull and dentition, specific features of auditory ossicles* and other morphological characters that distinguish it from representatives of the mole family
* See: G. Solntseva, "Worlds of Sounds and Anatomy of Hearing", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2009.-Ed.
(Talpidae) (today most scientists agree with the listed characteristics and add new ones). But there are also features of resemblance showing genetic relatedness of these groups that have isolated themselves in a long evolution*.
The oldest fossils of muskrats are dated back to the Middle Oligocene (30 mln years ago). In the ensuing periods this small animal settled a vast territory, as testified by paleontological evidence of different age, from the Miocene (23-5 mln years ago) down to the Pleistocene (2.5 mln-11.7 thous. years ago), found i ... Читать далее