Galemys pyrenaicus 

Scope: Global, Europe & Mediterranean
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Eulipotyphla Talpidae

Scientific Name: Galemys pyrenaicus (E. Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1811)
Common Name(s):
English Pyrenean Desman
French Desman des Pyrénées
Spanish Desmán Ibérico
Mygale pyrenaica E. Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1811

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2ac+3c+4ac ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Fernandes, M., Herrero, J., Aulagnier, S. & Amori, G.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Vulnerable because the species is undergoing declines across its whole range. Declines appear to be the highest in Spain, but are lower in France (where the population marginally occurs) and Portugal. An overall decline of 30% over the last ten years is plausible, and given the ongoing threats to this species it is realistic to expect a further decline of at least 30% over the next ten years.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Pyrenean desman is restricted to the Pyrenees mountains (Andorra, France and Spain), as well as parts of northern and central Spain and northern Portugal. In France it occurs along the Aude, Agly, Salat, Aspe, Ossau, Ariège, Ardour, Tet and Tech rivers. In Portugal it occurs along the Minho, Ancora, Lima, Neiva, Cavado, Ave, Leca, Douro, Vouga, Mondego, and Tejo rivers (Queiroz et al. 1998) In Spain it is found in the upper reaches of rivers in the Pyrenees, the Cantabrian mountains, the Sistema Central, the Picos de Europa and along the Deva River. It also occurs in the Sierra de Guarra north of Huesca and Infiesta, Oviedo, and Burguete, Navarro (J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006). It is found at altitudes between sea level and 2,500 m (Palomo and Gisbert 2002). In Spain, the river systems that the species occurs in flow to three different seas: Mediterranean, Atlantic and Cantabrian; hence the populations are all separated from each other.
Countries occurrence:
Andorra; France; Portugal; Spain
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2500
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population has declined in recent years, but it is hard to obtain precise estimates of population size and decline rate for this shy and secretive species (González-Esteban et al. 2003). The desman has been radio-tracked in Portugal following successful capture of animals using underwater traps (care is required to check these traps regularly to prevent drownings: M. Fernandes pers. comm. 2006). In favourable habitats population densities may be 5-10 individuals per kilometre, but other studies indicate much lower densities (Quaresma et al. 1998, Chora 2001, Cabral et al. 2005). In Portugal it is estimated that there are less than 10,000 mature individuals divided into small and isolated subpopulations due to the existence of physical (e.g. dams) and ecological barriers (Cabral et al. 2005). In Spain the species has undergone marked declines in the central system (J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006), and the desman has disappeared from some sites where it was previously known (Palomo and Gisbert 2002). In the Spanish Pyrenees and Cantabrian regions densities range from 2.8 to 7.3 animals per km of river (Palomo and Gisbert 2002); however, in the Sistema Central population densities are lower (P. García pers. comm. 2007). In France the population is also declining (S. Aulagnier pers. comm. 2006).

As well as population declines, range contractions have been observed along the western, southern, and eastern edges of the desman's range in Portugal (Cabral et al. 2005).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The desman's preferred habitat is fast flowing mountain streams, although it is occasionally found in slow moving water bodies such as canals, lakes and marshes. It favours perennial rivers where the margins offer some shelter, and it requires clean and well oxygenated water. G. pyrenaicus is specialised to an aquatic environment. It feeds nocturnally on a diverse array of crustaceans and insect larvae, including stoneflies and caddis fly larvae (Queiroz 1999, Palomo and Gisbert 2002, Cabral et al. 2005).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Generation Length (years):2-3

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is confined to a very vulnerable habitat in a restricted area. The most potent threats are from water pollution, and habitat fragmentation caused by the construction of hydro-electric plants, water extraction, and dam and reservoir construction (Queiroz 1999, Palomo and Gisbert 2002, Cabral et al. 2005). Other threats are direct persecution from fishermen who incorrectly believe this species to be a threat to fish stocks, especially trout, or from over-eager collectors. Poison and explosives are used as fishing methods in Portugal, which would kill the desman (Cabral et al. 2005). The escape of North American mink (Neovison vison) from fur farms in northern Iberia might be negatively impacting populations in Galicia. It is predated by otters in Galicia (forming up to 5% of their diet) (Palomo and Gisbert 2002).

Climate change is anticipated to be a serious threat to the desman in the near future. The species tends to occur only in areas with annual rainfall superior to 1,000 mm and, given climate change scenarios for Spain, by 2060 the species may be virtually extinct from central Spain and also in most of its important areas from northern Iberia (P. García pers. comm. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is strictly protected under the Bern Convention (Appendix II) and the EU Habitats and Species Directive (Annexes II and IV). Part of the range falls within the Parc National des Pyrénées Occidentales and Parque Nacional de Covadona, and possibly the Parque Nacional de Aiguas y Lago de San Mauricio and the Parque Nacional de Ordesa. This species' conservation has been the topic of an international conference that has drawn up an action plan that includes priority actions. There is also an action plan for the species in Portugal. Actions proposed include appropriate management of water courses, habitat restoration, improvement of knowledge of the threatened populations, and use of the desman as a flagship species to promote river conservation (Cabral et al. 2005). In Spain the species is considered Vulnerable because populations have disappeared from the formerly known range (L.J.P. Muñoz pers. comm. 2007).

Citation: Fernandes, M., Herrero, J., Aulagnier, S. & Amori, G. 2008. Galemys pyrenaicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T8826A12934876. . Downloaded on 18 August 2018.
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