Marbled polecats are found in areas of southeast Europe, throughout the middle east, and in parts of Asia. Its range extends as far north as Russia and as far east as China. This species is rare across its considerable range. In the middle east, Marbled polecats occur in highest densities in Israel.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
Distribution in Egypt
Marbled polecats have a unique coat that distinguishes it from its relatives, striped polecats, which are black with white stipes, and European polecats, which are mostly brown. Marbled polecats have a black/brown underbelly and a "marbled" dorsal side composed of black/brown, yellow/orange, and red hair. Marbled polecats have a long furry tail, which is black and yellow in color. A large white band spans across their forehead, and their eyes are covered in a black mask. Their white round ears stand out above their head.
Marbled polecats have short legs and long claws used for digging burrows and for digging out prey. Claws on their front limbs are longer, up to 16.7 mm, than claws on their hind limbs. They have 34 sharp teeth that also assist in capturing prey. Head-body measurements of this species range from 288 mm to 477 mm, and their tail adds 145 mm to 201 mm to their total length. Male marbled polecats tend to be heavier than females, up to 715 g in Siberia, but mass varies greatly throughout their range. Females are generally 295 to 600 g, while males are 320 to 715g.
Range mass: female 295 g; male 320 to female 600 g; male 715 g.
Range length: 441 to 655 mm.
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
As a generalist, the marbled polecat can occupy many habitats within its range. They are commonly found in treeless prairies (steppes) and semi-desert areas. These semi-arid areas are generally located at sea level to 3000 m in elevation. In Yugoslavia, marbled polecats are also found in riparian areas and mountain meadows, and in its southern range in Egypt they can be found in sandy areas with some vegetation (Gorsuch and Lariviere, 2005).
Range elevation: 0 to 2,100 m.
Habitat Regions: terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian
Habitat and Ecology
Marbled polecats are generalists and opportunistic predators (Ben-David, Pellis, and Pellis 1991). Their diet includes a range of rodents such as great gerbils, house mice, ground squirrels, birds, lizards, and even some insects (Gorsuch and Lariviere, 2005; Randall et al., 2005). Predatorial strategy of marbled polecats varies depending on the size and defensiveness of the prey. Marbled polecats approach their prey from the side. They bite small prey on their midsection and large prey on the back of the neck. If their prey struggles, the throat is often targeted.(Ben-David, Pellis, and Pellis, 1991).
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
Marbled polecats help control rodent populations in some parts of their range (Gorsuch and Lariviere, 2005). This species may also perform communal hunting with red fox. Marbled polecats are often used as hosts by ticks and fleas.
- ticks Ixodoidea
- fleas Siphonaptera
Although there are no recorded predators of marbled polecats, they display a defensive/ aggressive posture when threatened. They raise their tail, arch their back, and may bare their teeth while growling or hissing. Marbled polecats, like other mustelids, can release a foul smelling odor from an anal gland, which is possibly used as a defensive mechanism. Many marbled polecats are killed by vehicles.
Life History and Behavior
Marbled polecats have a keen sense of smell, and they emit a strong odor when threatened. In the family Mustelidae, scent marking is the most common form of communication (Wund, 2005). Little information is otherwise available regarding communication of this typically solitary species. When threatened, they emit aggressive hisses. They may also give alarm cries, grunts, and shrieks of submission.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Little information is available regarding the lifespan of wild marbled polecats. One captive individual, however, was reported to live for 8 years and 11 months. Marbled polecats infested with ticks and/or fleas may become limited in lifespan.
Status: captivity: 8.9 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Although marbled polecats are solitary, this is not the case during the mating season. Little information is otherwise available regarding the mating systems of this species.
Marbled polecats come together in the spring to breed (March-June). In captivity, gestation lasts 40 days, but this is often much longer in the wild; gestation may last 8 to 11 months, as marbled polecats exhibit delayed implantation, waiting for favorable environmental conditions to give birth. Young are born in late January to early March and may stay with their mother into June. Litter sizes range from 4 to 8 cubs. The cubs are be able to eat solid food before their eyes open at 38 to 40 days. At 50 to 54 days the young are weaned and disperse soon after 61 to 68 days. The cubs reach full size around 82 days of age. Predatory behavior occurs at an early age. Females mate during their first spring and are able to carry young the following winter. Males reach sexual maturity around one year of age and find mates after their first year.
Breeding interval: Marbled polecats breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Marbled polecats mate between March and June.
Range number of offspring: 4 to 8.
Range gestation period: 56 to 327 days.
Range weaning age: 50 to 54 days.
Range time to independence: 61 to 68 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.
Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; delayed implantation
Delayed implantation allows female marbled polecats to select the best environmental conditions in which to give birth. Although cubs feed from their mother until they are weaned, they display predatory behavior and are able to eat solid food before they are weaned. The cubs disperse around 61 to 68 days although not yet fully grown.
Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Populations of marbled polecats are declining in many areas of their range, in which they are already uncommon. Habitat destruction, desertification, and the changing of natural habitat to farmland have led to a large reduction in population size (Tikhonov et al. 2008). Human reduction of rodent populations as well as road traffic and hunting are also reducing populations of marbled polecats. Additionally, this species can become infected with ticks and fleas, which is an increasing problem.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Status in Egypt
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Marbled polecats may prey on poultry and may also take cheese and meat from humans.
Historically, marbled polecats were kept in shops to help control rodent problems in Kabul. They are on rare occasions kept as pets. Marbled polecats are occasionally trapped in small numbers for their fur, though it has no market value.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; controls pest population
The marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna) is a small mammal belonging to the monotypic genus Vormela within the Mustelinae subfamily. Vormela is from the German word Würmlein, which means "little worm". The term peregusna comes from perehuznya, which is Ukrainian for polecat. Marbled polecats are generally found in the drier areas and grasslands of southeastern Europe to western China. Like other members of Mustelinae, it can emit a strong-smelling secretion from anal sacs under the tail when threatened.
Ranging in length from 29–35 cm (head and body), the marbled polecat has a short muzzle and very large, noticeable ears. The limbs are short and claws are long and strong. While the tail is long, with long hair, the overall pelage is short. Black and white mark the face, with a black stripe across the eyes and white markings around the mouth. Dorsally, the pelage is yellow and heavily mottled with irregular reddish or brown spots. The tail is dark brown with a yellowish band in the midregion. The ventral region and limbs are a dark brown. Females weigh from 295 to 600 g, and males can range from 320 to 715 g.
The marbled polecat is found from southeast Europe to Russia and China. Its range includes Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey, Romania, Asia Minor, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, north-western Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan and north to the Altai Steppes in Siberia. In 1998, a marbled polecat was recorded on the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.
Marbled polecats are most active during the morning and evening. Their eyesight is weak and they rely on a well-developed sense of smell. Vocalization is limited and consists of shrill alarm cries, grunts and a submissive long shriek.
Marbled polecats are solitary and move extensively through their 0.5- to 0.6-km2 home range. They generally only stay in a shelter once. When they encounter each other, they are usually aggressive.
When alarmed, a marbled polecat will raise up on its legs while arching its back and curling its tail over the back, with the long tail hair erect. It may also raise its head, bare its teeth, and give shrill, short hisses. If threatened, it can expel a foul-smelling secretion from enlarged anal glands under the tail.
To dig, such as when excavating dens, the marbled polecat digs out earth with its forelegs while anchoring itself with its chin and hind legs. It will use its teeth to pull out obstacles such as roots.
Marbled polecats mate from March to early June. Their mating calls are most often heard as low rumbling sounds in a slow rhythm. Gestation can be long and variable (243 days to 327 days). Parturition has been observed to occur from late January to mid-March. Delayed implantation allows marbled polecats to time the birth of their cubs for favorable conditions, such as when prey is abundant.
Litter sizes range from four to eight cubs. Only females care for the young. Cubs open their eyes at around 38–40 days old, are weaned at 50–54 days and leave their mother (disperse) at 61–68 days old.
Marbled polecats are found in open desert, semidesert, and semiarid rocky areas in upland valleys and low hill ranges, steppe country and arid subtropical scrub forest. They avoid mountainous regions. Marbled polecats have been sighted in cultivated areas such as melon patches and vegetable fields.
Burrows of large ground squirrels or similar rodents such as the great gerbil (Rhombomys opinus) and Libyan jird are used by marbled polecats for resting and breeding. They may also dig their own dens or live in underground irrigation tunnels. In the winter, marbled polecats will line their dens with grass.
Marbled polecats are known to eat ground squirrels, Libyan jirds (Meriones libycus), Armenian hamsters (Cricetulus migratorius), voles, mole rats (Spalax lecocon ehrenbergi), house mice (Mus musculus), and other rodents, small hares, birds, lizards, fish, frogs, snails, and insects (beetles and crickets), as well as fruit and grass. They are also recorded as taking small domestic poultry such as chickens and pigeons, as well as stealing smoked meat and cheese.
In 2008, V. peregusna was classified as a vulnerable species in the IUCN Red List due to a population reduction of at least 30% in the previous 10 years. In 1996, it had been considered a species of least concern. The decline in marbled polecat populations thought to be due to habitat destruction (cultivation) and reduction in available prey by use of rodenticides.
In Pakistan, it is listed as an endangered species.
Relation with humans
In 1945, Kabul shopkeepers were reported to have kept marbled polecats to exterminate rodents. Their journals also show some developed an adverse reaction to the strong smell they emit when threatened. Side effects varied from fever to diarrhea.
Other names for the marbled polecat include aladzhauzen (Turkmen), berguznya (Kuban), chokha (Kalmuck), fessyah (stinky in Arabic), abulfiss (Arabic), hu-yio (Chinese), myshovka (Terek Cossacks dialect), pereguznya, pereguzka, or perevishchik (Ukrainian), perevyazka (Russian), perewiaske (Polish), alaca sansar, alaca kokarca, benekli kokarca (Turkish), suur-tyshkan (Kyrgyz), putois marbré or putois de Pologne (French); Tigeriltis (German), mottled polecat (English), sarmatier; Syrian marbled polecat, and tiger polecat. In some contexts it is called the tiger weasel.
The subspecies of V. peregusna include:
- V. p. alpherakyi
- V. p. euxina
- V. p. negans
- V. p. pallidor
- V. p. peregusna
- V. p. syriaca
- "Dictionary definition". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- Peterson, Marcus (1914). The fur traders and fur bearing animals. Hammond Press. p. 191. ""Fitch" was a popular fur with our grandmothers, and at present has come back into favor. [...] The Perwitsky or Sarmatian Mottled Polecat (Putorius sarmaticus), is a distinct species..."
- Bosworth, editors C.E.; Asimov, the late M.S. (2003). History of civilizations of Central Asia.. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 282. ISBN 9788120815964.
- Goodwin, George Gilbert (1954). "tiger+weasel" The Animal Kingdom: Mammals. Doubleday. p. 508.
- ^ Akhtar, S. A. (1945). "On the habits of the marbled polecat, Vormela peregusna". Journal of Bombay Natural History Society 45: 142.
- ^ Bodenheimer, F.S. (1935). Animal life in Palestine: an introduction to the problems of animal ecology and zoogeography. Jerusalem, Israel: L. Mayer.
- ^ Ben-David, M. (1988). The biology and ecology of the Marbled polecat, Vormela peregusna syriaca, in Israel. Israel: Tel-Aviv University.
- ^ Ben-David, M. (1998). "Delayed implantation in the marbled polecat, Vormela peregusna syriaca (Carnivora, Mustelidae): evidence from mating, parturition, and post-natal growth". Mammalia 62 (2): 269–283. doi:10.1515/mamm.19220.127.116.119.
- ^ Gorsuch, W.; Larivière, Serge (2005). "Vormela peregusna". Mammalian Species 779: 1–5. doi:10.1644/779.1.
- ^ Harrison, D. (1968). Mammals of Arabia Volume 2. London: Ernest Benn Limited.
- ^ Kryštufek, B. (2000). "Mustelids in the Balkans – small carnivores in the European biodiversity hot-spot.". In H. J. Griffiths. Mustelids in a modern world: management and conservation aspects of small carnivore and human interactions. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers. pp. 281–294.
- ^ Lewis, R. E., J. H. Lewis, and S. I. Atalla (1968). "A review of Lebanese mammals: Carnivora, Pinnipedia, Hyracoidea, and Artiodactyla". Journal of Zoology London 154 (4): 517–531. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1968.tb01683.x.
- ^ MacDonald, D.; Barrett, P. (1993). Mammals of Britain and Europe. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-00-219779-0.
- ^ Milenković; M. Pavnović; H. Abel; H. J. Griffiths (2000). "The marbled polecat, Vormela peregusna (Güldenstaedt 1770) in FR Yugoslavia and elsewhere". In H. J. Griffiths. Mustelids in a modern world: management and conservation aspects of small carnivore and human interactions. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers. pp. 321–329.
- ^ Novikov, G.A. (1962). Carnivorous mammals of the fauna of the USSR. Jerusalem: Israeli Program of Scientific Translation,. ISBN 0-7065-0169-1.
- ^ Özkurt, Ş., M. Sözen, N. Yiğit, and E. Çolak (1999). "A Study on Vormela peregusna Guldenstaedt, 1770 (Mammalia: Carnivora) in Turkey". Turkish Journal of Zoology 23: 141–144.
- ^ Qumsiyeh, M. B., Z. S. Amr, and D. M. Shafei (1993). "Status and conservation of carnivores in Jordan". Mammalia 57: 55–62. doi:10.1515/mamm.1918.104.22.168.
- ^ Rifai, L. B., D. M. Al Shafee, W. N. Al Melhim, and Z. S. Amr (1999). "Status of the marbled polecat, Vormela peregusna (Gueldenstaedt, 1770) in Jordan". Zoology in the Middle East 17: 5–8.
- ^ Roberts, T.J. (1977). The mammals of Pakistan. England: Ernest Benn Limited. ISBN 0-19-579568-7.
- ^ Saleh, M. A., and M. Basuony (1998). "A contribution to the mammalogy of the Sinai Peninsula". Mammalia 62 (4): 557–575. doi:10.1515/mamm.1922.214.171.1247.
- ^ Schreiber, A.; R. Wirth, M. Riffel, and H. van Rompaey. (1989). Weasels, civets, mongooses and their relatives: an action plan for the conservation of mustelids and viverrids. Broadview, Illinois: Kelvyn Press, Inc.
- ^ Stroganov, S.U. (1969). Carnivorous mammals of Siberia. Jerusalem, Israel: Israeli Program of Scientific Translation. ISBN 0-7065-0645-6.
- ^ Tikhonov, A., Cavallini, P., Maran, T., Krantz, A., Herrero, J., Giannatos, G., Stubbe, M., Conroy, J., Kryštufek, B., Abramov, A. & Wozencraft, C. 2008. Vormela peregusna. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 16 February 2011.
EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!