Mustela kathiahyellow-bellied weasel

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Geographic Range

Mustela kathiah is found from northern Pakistan to southeast China, and throughout southeast Asia (Hussain 1999).

Habitat

Mustela kathiah prefers pine forests and is sometimes found above the timber line (Nowak and Paradiso 1983).

  • Range elevation
    1,800 to 4,000 m
    to ft

Physical Description

The dorsal surfaces of the pelt, including the tail, are dark brown, while the ventral surfaces are yellowish. The tail is more than half the length of the head and body. The upper lip, chin and throat are a lighter yellow-white color. The foot pads are well developed and exposed. The soles of the hind feet are bald (Hussain 1999; Sterndale 1992). Head and body length is from 250 to 270 mm, tail length from 125 to 150 mm (Nowak, 1997).

  • Average mass
    1.56 kg
    3.44 lb
  • Range length
    250 to 270 mm
    9.84 to 10.63 in

Reproduction

The mating system and behavior of M. katiah is unknown.

Little is known about reproductive behavior of Mustela kathiah. A den is built in a hole in the ground or under rocks or logs (Jha, 1999). If reproductive behavior in M. katiah is like that of its close relative, M. erminea, then breeding occurs annually with mating occurring in late spring or early summer and implantation of fertilized eggs delayed until the following spring. Females are therefore pregnant for approximately 10 months but gestation time is closer to 1 month in duration. Births occur in April and May with litter sizes ranging from 3 to 18. Females may become sexually mature in their first summer, males will reach sexual maturity after 1 year of age (Nowak, 1997).

  • Breeding season
    Late spring and early summer.
  • Range number of offspring
    3 to 18
  • Average gestation period
    1 months
  • Range weaning age
    6 to 8 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 12 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 to 12 months

If reproduction in M. katiah is similar to that in M. erminea then young are blind and helpless at birth but increase in size rapidly until about 8 weeks of age, when they are capable of hunting on their own. Females care for their young in the den until they gain independence (Nowak, 1997).

Lifespan/Longevity

Longevity in M. katiah may be similar to that of other mustelids. A captive M. sibirica lived to an age of 8 years and 10 months. In the wild it is likely that mustelids live for several years after reaching adulthood.

Behavior

The Nepalese kept yellow-bellied weasels to eradicate rodents in their homes and trained them to attack larger animals such as geese, goats, and sheep for sport (Hussain 1999; Sterndal 1982; Jha 1999).

Mustelids are typically nocturnal, solitary, and territorial (Nowak, 1997).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Yellow-bellied weasels eat mostly rodents such as mice, rats, and voles. They will also eat birds and small mammals (Nowak and Paradiso 1983; Jha 1999). Excellent sight, hearing, and sense of smell enables Mustela kathiah to easily track its prey. With its lean build, it is able to chase rats and mice in their burrows and kill them with a bite to the neck.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals

Predation

Members of the family Mustelidae are known for their ferocity and aggression. Mustela kathiah has been referred to as a hyperactive bundle of concentrated predatory energy (Jha, 1999).

Ecosystem Roles

It is likely that M. katiah acts to control rodent populations in the areas where it lives.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Yellow-bellied weasels are easily tamed and can be used to control rodents within human structures (Sterndale 1982).

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of M. katiah on humans.

Conservation Status

Yellow-bellied weasels are listed in Schedule II part II of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Appendix III of CITES, and DD during the CAMP Workshop (Hussain 1999). Substantial research on their biology and population status is required to make informed decisions about their protection.

Contributors

Kerstin Bandner (author), California State University, Sacramento, James Biardi (editor), California State University, Sacramento.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

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

delayed implantation

in mammals, a condition in which a fertilized egg reaches the uterus but delays its implantation in the uterine lining, sometimes for several months.

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

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

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).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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

nocturnal

active during the night

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

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.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

viviparous

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

References

Hussain, S. Dec 1999. "Mustelides, Viverrids and Herpestids of India: Species Profile and Conservation Status" (On-line). Accessed 11/11/2001 at http://www.wii.gov.in/envhome/envisdec99/yellowweasel.htm.

Jha, A. Jan 1999. Status of the Weasel Family in Sikkim. Tigerpaper, Vol.26:No.1: 2-3.

Nowak, R. 1997. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Nowak, R., J. Paradiso. 1983. Walkers Mammals of the World, Fourth Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press.

Sterndale, R. 1982. Natural History of the Mammalia of India and Ceylon.. New Delhi, India: Himalayan Books.