Arvicola amphibius


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Arvicola amphibius
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English European Water Vole, Water Vole, Eurasian Water Vole
French Campagnol Terrestre
Spanish Rata Topera
Arvicola terrestris (Linnaeus, 1758)
Taxonomic Notes: Linnaeus' amphibius and terrestris, both proposed in 1758 on the same page, are now considered conspecific by most researchers. As shown by Corbet (1978), amphibius has a priority over terrestris, based on Blasius (1857) as the first reviser. Recently, this species was split into A. amphibius and A. scherman (Panteleyev 2001, Wilson and Reeder 2005). Arvicola amphibius is larger, with shaggy pelage and ortodont incisors, and is associated with aquatic environment; A. scherman is smaller, with softer pelage, more reduced plantar and palmar tubercles, and the upper incisors strongly projecting forwards and has fossorial habits (Panteleyev 2001). Mitochondrial phylogeny based on sequences of 800 to 1,200 BP of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene suggests taxonomy of A. amphibius group to be more complex: three main groups were distinguished within A. amphibius: (1) strictly fossorial water voles from the mountain regions of Europe, (2) aquatic and transitional populations living south of the Alps, and (3) a heterogeneous group of the remaining aquatic populations (Wust Saucy 1998).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Batsaikhan, N., Henttonen, H., Meinig, H., Shenbrot, G., Bukhnikashvili, A., Amori, G., Hutterer, R., Kryštufek, B., Yigit, N., Mitsain, G. & Palomo, L.J.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species has a wide distribution, and is considered a pest in parts of its range. The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population size criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. less than 10,000 mature individuals in conjunction with appropriate decline rates and subpopulation qualifiers). Although there are ongoing declines in some range states (such as Britain, Italy, and the Netherlands), the overall population trend is believed to be stable at the global level. For these reasons, it is evaluated as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:There is much confusion between Arvicola amphibius and A. scherman and the distribution of both taxa should be considered tentative. Arvicola amphibius, as understood here, has a large range extending from France and the United Kingdom in the west, through much of continental Europe and Russia, as far as the Lena Basin and Lake Baikal in Siberia (Russia). Its range extends north of the Arctic circle and south into Iran and the Near East (Shenbrot and Krasnov 2005).
Afghanistan; Albania; Armenia (Armenia); Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Italy; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Population declines are evident in some European countries (e.g., United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy) (Saucy 1999, Battersby 2005). However, in many areas it is common and stable (in northern continental Europe it is considered a pest species). Even in optimal habitat, aquatic forms seldom occur at densities greater than 100 individuals per hectare (roughly equivalent to 15 individuals per 100 m of river bank)(Saucy 1999). In Fennoscandia and the Baltic area the aquatic form also shows population cycles in synchrony with other vole species. At high population densities, large scale damages on rice fields have been reported in Macedonia (B. Kryštufek pers. comm. 2007). The water vole is thought to have been a common species in the Hula swamps of Israel until the area was drained in 1957 (Qumsiyeh 1996). In Azerbaijan, considered to be common in semi deserts, lowland and riparian forests, mountain forests and mountain grasslands and numerous in foothill and mountain steppes. The species is locally abundant in lush banks.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This large vole is adaptable and survives in a range of habitats around rivers, streams and marshes in the lowlands and the mountains (Harrison and Bates 1991). It is a strong swimmer and climber (Harrison and Bates 1991). It occurs around streams and irrigation ditches. In Fennoscandia and locally in the Balkans, they live fossorial life during winter months. Steep riverbanks with lush grass and vegetation are preferred. May be active at any time, but are most active at dawn and dusk. Mainly vegetarian, feeding primarily on succulent vegetation, but also consumes some insects, mollusks, and small fish; roots, bulbs and tubers in the winter (Reichstein 1982, Harrison and Bates 1991). Reproduction occurs during the warmer months of the year and may begin as early as February in mild years. Gestation period is 21 days. Females produce 2-4 litters per year. Average litter size between 4-6 young.
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Declines in aquatic populations in parts of western Europe have been attributed to habitat loss, water pollution, predation by introduced American mink Neovison vison and competition by the introduced muskrat Ondatra zibethicus. Population fragmentation is more pronounced in Mediterranean populations due to increased aridity. In Israel it was a common species in the Hula swamps until the area was drained in 1957; a very limited area of the original swamp habitat remains (Qumsiyeh 1996). In Anatolia and Iran, pressure on aquatic habitat for water resources and localized competition with Rattus norvegicus (i.e., Georgia). Local population extinctions and reductions have occurred in Turkey, Georgia and other parts of this range due to drainage of swamp habitat (Qumsiyeh 1996). It is considered an agricultural pest and extensive control measures in rice fields were carried out in Macedonia in the 1980s.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species occurs in protected areas but is frequently considered a pest species.

Bibliography [top]

Bannikov, A. G. 1954. Mammals of the Mongolian People’s Republic. Nauka, Moscow, Russia.

Battersby, J. 2005. UK Mammals: Species Status and Population Trends. First Report by the Tracking Mammals Partnership. JNCC / The Tracking Mammals Partnership.

Blasius, J. H. 1857. Fauna der Wirbelthiere Deutschlands und der angrenzenden Länder von Mitteleuropa. I. Naturgeschichte der Säugetiere Deutschlands und der angrenzender Länder von Mitteleuropa. Fridrich Vieweg u. Sohn, Braunschweig.

Corbet, G. B. 1978. The Mammals of the Palaearctic Region: a Taxonomic Review. British Museum (Natural History) and Cornell University Press, London, UK and Ithaca, NY, USA.

Dulamtseren, S. 1970. Guide Book of the Mammals in Mongolia. Publishing House of the Mongolian Academy of Science, Ulaanbaatar.

Harrison, D. L. and Bates, P. J. J. 1991. The Mammals of Arabia. Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, UK.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Panteleyev, P. A. 2001. The water vole. Mode of the species. Nauka, Moscow, Russia.

Qumsiyeh, M. B. 1996. Mammals of the Holy Land. Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock.

Reichstein, H. 1982. Arvicola terrestis (Linnaeus, 1758) – Schermaus. In: J. Niethammer and F. Krapp (eds), Handbuch der Säugetiere Europas, Band 2: Nagetiere. Rodentia II, pp. 649 pp.. Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Wiesbaden.

Saucy, F. 1999. Arvicola terrestris. In: A. J. Mitchell-Jones, G. Amori, W. Bogdanowicz, B. Kryštufek, P. J. H. Reijnders, F. Spitzenberger, M. Stubbe, J. B. M. Thissen, V. Vohralík, and J. Zima (eds), The Atlas of European Mammals, Academic Press, London, UK.

Shenbrot, G. I. and Krasnov, B. R. 2005. An Atlas of the Geographic Distribution of the Arvicoline Rodents of the World (Rodentia, Muridae: Arvicolinae). Pensoft Publishers, Sofia.

Wilson, D. E. and Reeder, D. M. 1993. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. 2005. Mammal Species of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Wust Saucy, A.-G. 1998. Polymorphisme génétique et phylogéographie du campagnol terrestre Arvicola terrestris. Manuscript de Thèse de Doctorat, Université de Lausanne – Faculté des Sciences.

Citation: Batsaikhan, N., Henttonen, H., Meinig, H., Shenbrot, G., Bukhnikashvili, A., Amori, G., Hutterer, R., Kryštufek, B., Yigit, N., Mitsain, G. & Palomo, L.J. 2008. Arvicola amphibius. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 29 July 2014.
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