Mustela felipeiColombian weasel

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Geographic Range

Mustela felipei has been observed from western Colombia (provinces of Huila and Cauca) to northern Ecuador. The species was thought to be endemic to the Cordillera Central of Colombia until another specimen was found in Andean Ecuador. Within this potential distribution there are 34 protected areas (20 in Colombia and 14 in Ecuador). There are three confirmed localities for the species in each for Colombia and Ecuador; all lie within 1,123 to 2,700 m elevation.

Mustela felipei occurs in Colombia from Serrania de los Paraguas in the limits between the Chocó and Valle del Cauca departments (4°51′N, 76°25′W) through the Northern Andes of Ecuador in Mera in the province of Pastaza (1°27′S, 78°05′W; Schreiber et al., 1989; Wozencraft, 2005). According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, there are likely to be serious threats to the protection of this species and they proposed several core regions to protect to ensure its survival. The IUCN currently recognizes the species as vulnerable at a B2ab level (ii, iii, iv, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2013). ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.", 2013; "Mustela", 2013; Hollister, 1914; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Llano, et al., 2010; McKelvey, et al., 2007; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Nowak, 2005; Rageot and Albuja, 1994)

Habitat

Colombian weasels are very rare, and very little is known about them. They are found in riparian areas, near rivers and along the banks of other natural water sources. Only six localities have been confirmed in Colombia and Ecuador. The few specimens that have been obtained were collected from altitudes ranging between 1,750 and 2,700 m where cloud forests predominate. One specimen was collected in the upper Suaza river valley (Cueva de los Guacharos National Park). This part of the Suaza river contains a mixture of violent currents and quiet pools. ("Mustela", 2013; Alberico, 1994; Anderson and Martinez-Meyer, 2003; Bernal, 2004a; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Hollister, 1914; Izor and Peterson, 1985; Llano, et al., 2010; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Youngman, 1982)

  • Range elevation
    1700 to 2700 m
    5577.43 to 8858.27 ft
  • Range depth
    5 to 6 m
    16.40 to 19.69 ft

Physical Description

Adult specimens have averaged 22 cm (8.7 in) in length, not counting the 11.5 cm (4.5 in) tail, and weighed 120 to 150 g (4.2 to 5.3 oz). Colombian weasels are the second smallest living carnivore, being only slightly larger than least weasels (Mustela nivalis) and slightly smaller than ermines (Mustela erminea). Colombian weasels have an elongated body with short legs and a short rostrum, as typified by weasels, ferrets, mink, and otters. The upperparts and tail are blackish-brown, the underparts are orange-buff, and the fur is quite long. Little else is known about its physical appearance, though research indicates it has webbed feet to help provide stability in semi-aquatic habitats. (Bernal, 2004b; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Emmons and Helgen, 2013; Hollister, 1914; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Llano, et al., 2010; McKelvey, et al., 2007; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Nowak, 2005; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Schreiber, et al., 1989)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    120 to 150 g
    4.23 to 5.29 oz
  • Range length
    28 to 38 cm
    11.02 to 14.96 in
  • Range basal metabolic rate
    0.69 to 0.76 cm3.O2/g/hr

Reproduction

There have been no reports of mating systems in Colombian weasels. In the related and well-studied species, Mustela frenata, there is a monogamous pair bond, the male is attentive to the female - especially during weaning - and watches the young while she hunts for herself. Both parents take care of the offspring for two to three months. However, in other species of weasels, males compete for access to mating with multiple females and do not participate in the care of young. (Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Hijmans, et al., 2005; Hollister, 1914; Hunter, 2011; Izor and Peterson, 1985; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Nowak, 2005; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Youngman, 1982; "Mustela", 2013; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Hijmans, et al., 2005; Hollister, 1914; Hunter, 2011; Izor and Peterson, 1985; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Nowak, 2005; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Youngman, 1982)

There have been no studies of reproduction in Colombian weasels. However, in temperate weasel species, fertilized eggs develop for approximately eight days before suspending development for 7.5 months. After this time, the embryos resume development, and 6 to 8 young are born 24 days later. All together, the gestation period lasts 200 to 300 days. Newborn Colombian weasels are blind and hairless. They measure approximately 55 mm in length and weigh up to 2 g each. They quickly develop a soft fur, which is replaced by adult fur after 3 weeks. By week 5, their teeth have come in. Their eyes open by 6 weeks of age, at which point weaning begins. (Bernal, 2004a; Emmons and Helgen, 2013; Hijmans, et al., 2005; Hunter, 2011; Llano, et al., 2010; McKelvey, et al., 2007; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Nowak, 2005; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Youngman, 1982)

  • Breeding interval
    Colombian weasels breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    It is unclear whether breeding is seasonal in Colombian weasels.
  • Range number of offspring
    6 to 8
  • Range gestation period
    200 to 300 days
  • Range weaning age
    5 to 6 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    2 to 3 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 4 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 (low) years

Female Colombian weasels nurture their newborn young and take care of them for 2 to 3 months. In other, weasel species, sometimes males help care for young and sometimes they are uninvolved. (Anderson and Martinez-Meyer, 2003; Bernal, 2004b; Bernal, 2004a; Hollister, 1914; Hunter, 2011; Izor and Peterson, 1985; Llano, et al., 2010; McKelvey, et al., 2007; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Youngman, 1982)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Mustela felipei usually lives for 1 to 6 years. (Hollister, 1914; Hunter, 2011; Izor and Peterson, 1985; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Llano, et al., 2010; Nowak, 2005; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Youngman, 1982)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 6 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 6 years

Behavior

Because this species is known from so few specimens and has not been observed in the wild, there is very little known about Colombian weasel behavior. Like other weasels, they are likely to be mainly solitary and sedentary. ("Mustela", 2013; Bernal, 2004a; Emmons and Helgen, 2013; Hollister, 1914; Izor and Peterson, 1985; Nowak, 2005)

Home Range

Home range sizes of Colombian weasels are unknown. (Anderson and Martinez-Meyer, 2003; Bernal, 2004a; Hijmans, et al., 2005; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Llano, et al., 2010; McKelvey, et al., 2007; Rageot and Albuja, 1994)

Communication and Perception

Colombian weasels communicate with vocalizations, vision, touch, and probably with scent cues. Individuals of this species stand on their hind legs to search for others and emit a high-pitched sound to alert relatives in times of danger. (Bernal, 2004a; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Izor and Peterson, 1985; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Llano, et al., 2010; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Schreiber, et al., 1989)

Food Habits

Colombian weasels are carnivorous, like their weasel cousins. Because of their webbed feet and occurrence in riparian habitats, they are assumed to eat fish and other aquatic organisms, in addition to terrestrial small mammals and insects. (Alberico, 1994; Anderson and Martinez-Meyer, 2003; Bernal, 2004b; Bernal, 2004a; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Emmons and Helgen, 2013; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Llano, et al., 2010; McKelvey, et al., 2007; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Youngman, 1982)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Predation

Little is known about predation on or anti-predator adaptations in this species. However, their coloration likely helps them blend in with the environment. (Bernal, 2004b; Bernal, 2004a; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Hollister, 1914; Izor and Peterson, 1985; Izor and de la Torre, 1978; Llano, et al., 2010; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Youngman, 1982)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Colombian weasels are likely to be important predators of small animals in the riparian habitats they occupy. Little is know of mutualisms or parasitisms in this species. ("Mustela", 2013; Alberico, 1994; Anderson and Martinez-Meyer, 2003; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Emmons and Helgen, 2013; Hijmans, et al., 2005; Hollister, 1914; McKelvey, et al., 2007; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Nowak, 2005; Rageot and Albuja, 1994; Youngman, 1982)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • creates habitat

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Colombian weasels may help humans by controlling rodent and insect pest populations in the areas they occupy. Their skins are also used for coats and other clothing products. (Emmons and Helgen, 2013; Hijmans, et al., 2005; Hollister, 1914; Hunter, 2011; Llano, et al., 2010; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Youngman, 1982)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Colombian weasels are not known to have any negative impact on humans. (Alberico, 1994; Anderson and Martinez-Meyer, 2003; Emmons and Helgen, 2013; Hijmans, et al., 2005; Mesa-Gonzalez, 2006; Youngman, 1982)

Conservation Status

Colombian weasels are recognized as vulnerable with a decreasing population trend by the IUCN. Very little is known about their life history and population status, but their rarity and the fact that many of the areas they are thought to inhabit have been severely impacted by deforestation suggests that populations are threatened. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.", 2013)

Other Comments

The scientific name Mustela felipei honors the mammalogist Philip "Don Felipe" Hershkovitz.

Contributors

Kirsten Wesner (author), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Shaina Stewart (editor), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

piscivore

an animal that mainly eats fish

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

2013. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species." (On-line). Accessed August 10, 2013 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/search.

2013. "Mustela" (On-line). Accessed August 18, 2013 at http://eol.org/pages/311519/hierarchy_entries/46596382/overview.

Alberico, M. 1994. New locality record for the Colombian Wease. Colombian Weasel, 10: 16-17.

Anderson, R., E. Martinez-Meyer. 2003. Modelling species’ geo - graphic distributions for preliminary conservation assessments: an implementation with the spiny pocket mice ( Heteromys ) of Ecuador. Equador, 164: 211-233.

Bernal, E. 2004. Plan de Desarrollo Chivatá-Boyacá. Alcaldía Municipal de Chivatá. Chivata, 13: 126-128.

Bernal, E. 2004. lan de Desarrollo Chivatá-Boyacá. Alcaldía Municipal de Chivatá, 12: 122.

Eisenberg, J., K. Redford. 1999. Mammals of the Neotropics: The Central Neotropics: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Emmons, L., K. Helgen. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Mustela felipei, 13: 122-126.

Hijmans, R., S. Cameron, J. Parra, P. Jones, A. Jarvas. 2005. Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global landareas. International Journal of Climatolog, 25: 1965-1978.

Hollister, N. 1914. . Descriptions of four new mammals from tropical America. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 24: 141-144.

Hunter, L. 2011. Carnivores of the World. Princeton University Press, 48: 166.

Izor, R., N. Peterson. 1985. Notes on South American weasels.. Journal of Mammalogy, 68: 788-790.

Izor, R., L. de la Torre. 1978. A new species of weasel (Mustela) form the highlands of Colombia, with comments on the evolution and distribution of south american weasels.. Journal of Mammalogy, 59: 92-102.

Llano, J., J. Salazar, J. Agudelo, A. Perez, J. Hernandez. 2010. Estado de conocimiento de la fauna silvestre en la juridiccion de Corantioquia. Corporacion Autonoma Regional del Centro de Antioquia. CORANTIOQUIA, 21: 870.

McKelvey, K., K. Aubry, M. Schwartz. 2007. Using anecdotal occurrence data for rare or elusive species: the illusion of reality and a call for evidentiary standards.. species of Mustela, 12: 121-126.

Mesa-Gonzalez, E. 2006. Libro Rojo de los mamíferos de Colombia. Mammals, 46: 139-144.

Nowak, R. 2005. Walker’s Carnivores of the world. Pp. 300-355 in Mustela. Baltimore, USA and London, UK.: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Rageot, R., Albuja. 1994. Mustela. Weasels, 19: 165-208.

Schreiber, A., R. Wirth, M. Riffel, H. Van Rompaey. 1989. Weasels, civets, mongooses, and their relatives. An Action Plan for the conservation of mustelids and viverrids. Weasels, 1: 1-3.

Youngman, P. 1982. Distribution and systematics of the European mink Mustela lutreola Linnaeus. Mustela felipei, 166: 48.