Mustela strigidorsablack-striped weasel

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Geographic Range

Stripe-backed weasels (Mustela strigidorsa) are found throughout eastern Asia, with a range extending from the eastern Himalayas into southern China and the northern regions of Southeast Asia. These mustelids are seldom seen throughout their range and are often misidentified. However, there have been confirmed sightings of the species in the northern regions of India, central Myanmar, southern China, northern Thailand and the central and northern regions of Laos and Vietnam. The southern limit of the species remains unclear. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Streicher, et al., 2010)

Habitat

Recorded documentation of stripe-backed weasels' habitat preferences is rare. Their habitat preferences may be inferred from the hunting experiences of indigenous people. Descriptions of this species habitat include thick jungle, dense hill jungle, and moderate forest within its Palearctic distribution. Stripe-backed weasels can be found in scrubby regenerating forests throughout their range, but have also been captured in the evergreen forests of Thailand and Vietnam. Stripe-backed weasels are generally described as a montane species. They may prefer relatively high altitudes and have been observed at elevations ranging from 90 meters in northern Myanmar to 2,500 meters in China and India. In China, M. strigidorsa has inhabited river valleys at altitudes ranging from 1,200 to 2,200 meters above sea-level. Animals living at low altitudes appear to prefer rugged terrain. The specific habitat needs of this species are uncertain, due to the wide variety of habitats in which it has been sighted. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Streicher, et al., 2010)

  • Range elevation
    90 to 2500 m
    295.28 to 8202.10 ft

Physical Description

Stripe-backed weasels typically have body lengths of 30 to 36 cm. The tail of this mustelid is long, measuring 18 to 20 cm. The body mass of stripe-backed weasels is estimated between 1 to 2 kg. Stripe-backed weasels are largely reddish brown and have a distinctive, thin, cream coloured stripe from their mid-nape, down the center of their back and onto the first third of their tails. This trait is diagnostic and not seen in other carnivores. Stripe-backed weasels' chins and chests are also a yellow cream colour. Their eyes are very black and small and their ear pinnae are well hidden by fur. This species has the typical Mustelid dental formula: I3/3, C1/1, PM3/3, M1/2 = 34. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Streicher, et al., 2010; Tizard, 2002)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    1000 to 2000 g
    35.24 to 70.48 oz
  • Range length
    300 to 360 mm
    11.81 to 14.17 in

Reproduction

Little is known about breeding behaviors of stripe-backed weasels. (Johnson, et al., 2000)

It is unknown whether this species has delayed implantation, a reproductive trait that is not uncommon in mustelids.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual

Little is known about the parental investment of stripe-backed weasels.

Lifespan/Longevity

The natural life span of stripe-backed weasels is unknown. The closely related Siberian weasel can live up to 6 years in the wild. (Mayagi, et al., 1983)

Behavior

Mustela strigidorsa scent marks their territories. Daytime activity levels are undocumented; however, most field sightings of this elusive animal have been made during the day. Behavioral traits of the species have not been well documented and are in need of further investigation. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Streicher, et al., 2010)

Home Range

Stripe-backed weasels most likely have intra-sexual ranges, in which a male's range is significantly larger than a females and overlaps with conspecifics of the opposite gender. (Johnson, et al., 2000)

Communication and Perception

Stripe-backed weasels scent-mark their home ranges, most likely as an intraspecfic communication mechanism for maintaining territories. (Streicher, et al., 2010)

Food Habits

Little is known about their dietary habits. One potential prey species is the bandicoot rat. One study documented a stripe-backed weasel attacking a bandicoot rat by biting and holding onto its nose. Stripe-backed weasels have been observed foraging around dead logs, examining the cracks and crevices, possibly searching for insects, grubs and worms that reside within the logs. Likewise, one record documented a weasel hunting and capturing an unidentified rat near a stream. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Hutton, 1922; Tizard, 2002; Treesucon, 1989)

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

Predation

Non-human predation on stripe-backed weasels has not been documented, but they are hunted by local humans. (Abramov, et al., 2008)

  • Known Predators
    • Human (Homo sapiens)

Ecosystem Roles

This species has been observed killing rodents in the wild, so it may have some role in controlling rodent populations. The behavior of the closely related Japanese weasel (Mustela sibrica itatsi) suggests that they may be an effective predator of nuisance rats. Due to stripe-backed weasels close relation to Japanese weasels, this may imply they also have some ability to control nuisance rodents. Stripe-backed weasels are also hosts for parasitic nematodes (Skrjabingylus nasicola), which are common in mustelids of the Palearctic region. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Uchida, 1968)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Stripe-backed weasels are trapped and hunted for food and fur by indigenous populations in Asia, although not all indigenous people view the animals as edible. In fact, some groups have described the meat as foul-smelling. Despite being trapped on occasion, the pelts of stripe-backed weasels are of minimal value; only 3,000 to 4,000 documented pelts were harvested per year, in China during the 1970s. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Lau, et al., 2010; Streicher, et al., 2010)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There have been reports of stripe-backed weasels killing domestic chickens, but the validity of these reports is questionable because these animals are often confused with mongooses and other small carnivores. (Abramov, et al., 2008)

Conservation Status

This species is widespread, but does not appear to be abundant. It is listed by the IUCN Red List as of "least concern". However, Mustela strigidorsa is considered an endangered species in China and has protected status in Thailand. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Duckworth, et al., 2012; Streicher, et al., 2010)

Contributors

Reynaud Stewart (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba, Leila Siciliano (editor), Michigan State University.

Glossary

Palearctic

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

World Map

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

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.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

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

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.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

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.

References

Abramov, A., J. Duckworth, Y. Wang, S. Roberton. 2008. The stripe-backed weasel Mustela strigidorsa: taxonomy, ecology, distribution and status. Mammal Review, 38: 247-266.

Duckworth, J., . Yonzon, A. Abramov, R. Timmons. 2012. "Mustela strigidorsa" (On-line). Accessed February 05, 2013 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/14027/0.

Glass, B., M. Thies. 1997. A Key To The Skulls Of North American Mammals third edition. United States of America: Bryan P. Glass.

Hutton, J. 1922. The occurrence if the stripe-backed weasel (Mustela strigidorsa) in the Naga hills. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 28: 795-796.

Johnson, D., D. MacDonald, A. Dickman. 2000. An analysis and review of models of the sociobiology of the Mustelidae. Mammal Review, 30: 171-196.

Lau, M., J. Fellowes, B. Chan. 2010. Carnivores (Mammalia:Carnivora) in South China: a status review with notes on the commercial trade. Mammal Review, 40: 247-292.

Mayagi, K., S. Shiraishi, T. Uchida. 1983. Age Determination in the Yellow Weasel Mustela sibirica coreana. Journal of faculty, Agriculture. Kyushu University, 27(3-4): 100-114.

Streicher, U., J. Duckworth, W. Robichaud. 2010. Further Records of Stripe-backed Weasel Mustela strigidorsa from Lao PDR. Tropical Natural History, 10: 199-203.

Tizard, R. 2002. Records of Little Known Small Carnivores from Thailand, Lao PDR and southern China. Small Carnivore Conservation, 26: 3.

Treesucon, U. 1989. A sighting of the back-striped weasel (Mustela strigidorsa) in Northern Thailand. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society, 37: 253-254.

Uchida, T. 1968. Observations on the Efficiency of the Japanese Weasel, Mustela sibirica itatsi Temminck & Schlegel, as a Rat-Control Agent in the Ryukyus. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 39: 980-986.