Yellow-throated martens, Martes flavigula, also known as kharza, live in forested regions throughout Southern and Eastern Asia. Their range extends throughout the Himalayas, as far south as Indonesia, and as far north as the Korean Peninsula and the Chinese-Russian border.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )
Yellow-throated martens are relatively large martens and are notable for their flexible and muscular appearance. The lengthy tail is about two-thirds of their body length. Adult males range from 50 to 71.9 cm in length (61.2 cm average) and from 2.5 to 5.7 kg in mass (3.3 kg average). Females are somewhat smaller and range from 50 to 62 cm in length (57.5 cm average) and from 1.2 to 3.8 kg in mass (2.8 kg average).
Yellow-throated martens have a unique coloration, though it can vary considerably across individuals and subspecies. The head is black or dark brown, the back and underside are light brown or yellow, the chest and throat are bright yellow or golden, and the tail is mostly black or dark brown. Summer coloration is darker and duller than in winter.
This color pattern, particularly the yellow throat for which it is named, distinguishes Martes flavigula from other species in the genus. In 2005, 9 subspecies of M. flavigula were recognized, distinguished by slight variation in coloring and fur (Wozencraft, 2005). In general, these subspecies are distinguished by the presence or absence of a naked area of skin on the hind foot and the length and color of the animal’s winter coat.
Range mass: 1.2 to 5.7 kg.
Average mass: male 3.3 kg; female 2.8 kg.
Range length: 50 to 71.9 cm.
Average length: male 61.2 cm; female 57.5 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Yellow-throated martens occupy a variety of habitats. They prefer mixed forests composed of spruce and broad-leaved trees. In the northern part of their range, they also inhabit coniferous taiga. In the southern part of their range, they inhabit lowland swamps and marshes as well as treeless mountains in Northern India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Yellow-throated martens have been observed at altitudes of 0 to 3000 m above sea-level.
Range elevation: 0 to 3000 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; forest ; rainforest
Wetlands: marsh ; swamp
Habitat and Ecology
Although sometimes said to be largely or entirely nocturnal, the species is primarily diurnal, but also hunts at night increasing nocturnal activity during lunar nights (plus or minus 7 days from full moon) (Duckworth 1997, Grassman et al. 2005, Than Zaw et al. in press, Parr and Duckworth 2007, J. L. Walston pers. comm. (for Cambodia)). Common food items include squirrels, birds, snakes, and lizards, though insects, eggs, frogs, fruit, nectar, and berries are also taken, as well as honey and bees (Lekagul and McNeely 1977) and in fact it probably has a very wide diet (Parr and Duckworth 2007). In nature, groups of two to three or more rarely, five to seven individuals can be seen; in the Russian Far East the species hunts in groups for musk deer (Matyushkin 1993). It is also usually found in small groups, rather than as single individuals, at least in tropical parts of its range (Parr and Duckworth, 2007).
Grassman et al. (2005) found that this species has a mean annual range size of 7.2 km² with a mean overlap of 34% in a study on this species conducted in Phu Kieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand. The litter size is up to five, and the gestation period is 220-290 days, and it has life span of up to 14 years (Lekagul and McNeely 1977).
Yellow-throated martens are omnivorous, and their diet varies with location and season. In the northern part of their range, they prey upon musk deer of the genus Moschus, which they hunt in groups. By surrounding the prey, they increase chances of a successful hunt. Yellow-throated martens often chase prey onto frozen lakes and rivers where they are easier to kill. Because they rely on musk deer as a prey source, trends in yellow-throated marten populations follow fluctuations in musk deer populations.
Yellow-throated martens also regularly consume small mammals (squirrels, hares, mouse-like rodents, etc.), birds, insects, nuts, and fruit. Unlike other martens, yellow-throated martens do not eat carrion. In warmer and lower-elevation climates, yellow-throated martens more frequently consume lizards and fruits, although specific diet in areas without musk deer is less well-known. They do not prefer vertebrate prey over fruit and instead favor fruit over rodents when both are available in abundance. This preference for fruit has not been observed in any other member of the genus Martes.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; eggs; insects; mollusks
Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Yellow-throated martens act as a top-level predators and may impact prey populations, particularly of musk deer. Because they eat seeds and nuts, they may also disperse seeds throughout the forest.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Yellow-throated martens have no natural predators, and they generally compete with other predators for food.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Little is known about communication of yellow-throated martens. They are social creatures that travel in groups of 2 to 3, and males compete for mates, so communication is very likely. They likely utilize scent marking as is typical of mustelids.
Communication Channels: visual
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical
Little is known about the lifespan of yellow-throated martens in the wild. One individual lived 16 years in captivity.
Status: captivity: 16 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The reproductive habits of yellow-throated martens have not been extensively studied, but they are thought to be monogamous. Male-male combat for mates has been observed during periods of breeding.
Mating System: monogamous
Yellow-throated martens breed annually between either February and March or between June and August. Gestation typically lasts between 220 and 290 days. Litters typically contain 2 or 3 kits, although litters of 4 or 5 have been observed.
Other species in the genus Martes exhibit delayed implantation, and it is likely that yellow-throated martens also employ this reproductive strategy considering their unusually long gestation period relative to most mammals. Further information on the growth and development of these animals has not been documented. Other species of martens are typically weaned between 6 and 8 weeks of age and leave the care of their mother between 3 and 4 months of age.
Breeding interval: Yellow-throated martens breed annually during one of two breeding seasons.
Breeding season: Yellow-throated martens mate either between February and March or between June and August.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 5.
Average number of offspring: 2.5.
Range gestation period: 220 to 290 days.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; delayed implantation
Little information is available regarding parental investment of yellow-throated martens. Other species in the genus Martes are weaned at 6 to 8 weeks and continue to receive maternal care for 3 to 4 months before living independently.
Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Martes flavigula
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Martes flavigula
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
Yellow-throated martens are considered a species of least concern by the IUCN as a result of their wide distribution throughout Asia and stable population throughout the area. They are protected, however, in several areas throughout their range, including Myanmar, Malaysia, and China. One subspecies, Martes flavigula chrysospila (Formosan yellow-throated marten) is considered endangered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Yellow-throated martens in India are also listed on Appendix III of CITES.
US Federal List: endangered; no special status
CITES: appendix iii; no special status
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1990Indeterminate(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Indeterminate(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
In some regions, yellow-throated martens prey upon sables (Martes zibellina), a valuable furbearer, and thus negatively impact the fur industry. However, population levels are not high enough to have a considerable negative effect on this industry.
Unlike other mustelids, the fur of yellow-throated martens is not valuable enough to justify the considerable effort required to hunt and capture them. No other economic uses of this species are known.
The yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula) is an Asian species of marten which is listed by the IUCN as Least Concern due to its wide distribution, evidently relatively stable population, occurrence in a number of protected areas, and lack of major threats. The yellow-throated marten is the largest marten in the Old World, with a tail more than half its body length. Its fur is brightly colored, consisting of a unique blend of black, white, golden-yellow and brown. It is an omnivore, whose sources of food range from fruit and nectar to small deer. The yellow-throated marten is a fearless animal with no natural predators, because of its powerful build, its bright coloration and unpleasant odor. It shows little fear of humans or dogs, and is easily tamed.
Although similar in several respects to the smaller beech marten, it is sharply differentiated from other martens by its unique color and the structure of its baculum. It is probably the most ancient form of marten, having likely originated during the Pliocene, as indicated by its geographical distribution and its atypical coloration.
The first written description of the yellow-throated marten in the Western World is given by Thomas Pennant in his History of Quadrupeds (1781), in which he named it "White-cheeked Weasel". Pieter Boddaert featured it in his Elenchus Animalium with the name Mustela flavigula. For a long period after the Elenchus' publication, the existence of the yellow-throated marten was considered doubtful by many zoologists, until a skin was presented to the Museum of the East India Company in 1824 by Thomas Hardwicke.
It is also known as the kharza.
The yellow-throated marten is a large, robust, muscular and flexible animal with an elongated thorax, a small pointed head, a long neck and a very long tail which is about 2/3 as long as its body. The tail is not as bushy as that of other martens, and thus seems longer than it actually is. The limbs are relatively short and strong, with broad feet. The ears are large and broad, but short with rounded tips. The soles of the feet are covered with coarse, flexible hairs, though the digital and foot pads are naked and the paws are weakly furred. The skull is similar to that of the beech marten, but is much larger. The baculum is S-shaped, with four blunt processes occurring on the tip. It is larger than other Old World martens; males measure 500–719 mm (19.7–28.3 in) in body length, while females measure 500–620 mm (20–24 in). Males weigh 2.5–5.7 kg (5.5–12.6 lb), while females weigh 1.6–3.8 kg (3.5–8.4 lb). The anal glands sport two unusual protuberances, which can be used to secrete a strong smelling liquid for defensive purposes.
The yellow-throated marten has relatively short fur which lacks the fluffiness of the pine marten, sable and beech marten. The winter fur differs from that of other martens by its relative shortness, its harshness and its luster. It is also not as dense, fluffy and compact as that of other martens. The hairs on the tail are short and of equal length over the whole tail. The summer fur is shorter, sparser, less compact and lustrous. The color of the pelage is unique among martens, being bright and variegated. The top of the head is blackish brown with shiny brown highlights, while the cheeks are somewhat more reddish, with a mixture of white hair tips. The back of the ears are black, while he inner portions are covered with yellowish-grey. The fur is a shiny brownish-yellow color with a golden tone from the occiput along the surface of the back. The color becomes browner on the hind quarters. The flanks and belly are bright yellowish in tone. The chest and lower part of the throat are a brighter, orange-golden color than the back and belly. The chin and lower lips are pure white. The front paws and lower forelimbs are pure black, while the upper parts of the limbs are the same color as the front of the back. The tail is of a shiny pure black color, though the tip has a light, violet wash. The base of the tail is greyish-brown. The contrasting marks of the head and throat are likely recognition marks.
Territorial behavior and reproduction
The yellow-throated marten holds extensive, but not permanent, home-ranges. It actively patrols its territory, having been known to cover over 10 to 20 km in a single day and night. It primarily hunts on the ground, but can climb trees proficiently, being capable of making jumps up to 8 to 9 meters in distance between branches. After March snowfalls, the yellow-throated marten restricts its activities up treetops. Estrus occurs twice a year, from mid-February to late-March and from late-June to early-August. During these periods, the males fight each other for access to females. Litters typically consist of two or three kits and rarely four.
The yellow-throated marten is a diurnal hunter, which usually hunts in pairs, but may also hunt in packs of three or more. It preys on rats, mice, hares, snakes, lizards, eggs and ground nesting birds such as pheasants and francolins. It is reported to kill cats and poultry. It has been known to feed on human corpses, and was once thought to be able to attack an unarmed man in groups of 3 to 4. The yellow-throated marten may prey on small ungulates. In the Himalayas and Burma, it is reported to frequently kill muntjac fawns, while in Ussuriland the base of its diet consists of musk deer, particularly in winter. The young of larger ungulate species are also taken, but within a weight range of 10 to 12 kg. In winter, the yellow-throated marten hunts musk deer by driving them onto ice. Two or three yellow-throated martens can consume a musk deer carcass in 2 to 3 days. Other ungulate species preyed upon by the yellow-throated marten include young wapiti, spotted deer, roe deer and goral. Wild boar piglets are also taken on occasion. It may prey on panda cubs and smaller marten species, such as sables. In areas where it is sympatric with tigers, the yellow-throated marten may trail them and feed on their kills. Like other martens, it supplements its diet with nectar and fruit, and is therefore considered to be an important seed disperser.
Martes f. flavigula
|Bodaert, 1785||A large subspecies distinguished by the absence of a naked area of skin above the plantar pad of the hind foot, a larger mat of hair between the plantar and carpal pads of the forefoot and by its longer, more luxuriant winter coat||Jammu & Kashmir eastwards through Northern India, the Himalayas to Assam, upper Burma, and southeastern Tibet and southern Kham||chrysogaster (C. E. H. Smith, 1842)|
hardwickei (Horsfield, 1828)
Martes f. borealis
|Radde, 1862||Distinguished from flavigula by its denser and longer winter fur and somewhat larger general dimensions||Amur and Primorsky Krais, former Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula||koreana (Mori, 1922)|
Martes f. chrysospila
|Swinhoe, 1866||Taiwan||xanthospila (Swinhoe, 1870)|
Martes f. hainana
|Hsu and Wu, 1981||Hainan island|
Martes f. henrici
Martes f. indochinensis
|Kloss, 1916||Distinguished from flavigula by the presence of a naked area of skin above the plantar pad of the hind feet and the area between the plantar and carpal pads on the forefeet. The winter coat is shorter and less luxuriant, with the color being paler, rather yellower on the shoulders and upper back, the loins are less deeply pigmented and the nape is more profusely speckled with yellow. The belly is a dirty white in color and the throat pale yellow.||Northern Tenasserim, Thailand and Vietnam|
Martes f. peninsularis
|Bonhote, 1901||Similar to indochinensis, but distinguished by its brown, rather than black, head, with the nape being the same color as the shoulders, being usually buff or yellowish brown. The shoulders and upper back are not as yellow as in indochinensis and the abdomen is always darkish brown, while the throat varies from orange-yellow to cream. The fur is short and thin||Southern Tenasserim and the Malay Peninsula|
Martes f. robinsoni
|Pocock, 1936||western Java|
Martes f. saba
|Chasen and Kloss, 1931||Borneo|
The species occurs in subtropical and tropical forests from the Himalayas to eastern Russia, south to the Malay Peninsula and Sunda Shelf (Borneo, Sumatra, and Java) to Taiwan. The yellow-throated marten has been reported in the northeast Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Himalayan West Bengal and Assam and in Burma. It occurs in central and northeastern China and the Korean Peninsula. The yellow-throated marten is well distributed, but uncommon throughout mainland Malaya. It also occurs in the central mountain range and the southern areas of Taiwan.
- Abramov, A., Timmins, R. J., Roberton, S., Long, B., Than Zaw, Duckworth, J. W. (2008). "Martes flavigula". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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