Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Mustelidae Morphology

  • Anna LoyEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1210-1


Despite recent molecular data evidenced that skunks do not lie within the mustelid group (Sato et al. 2012), Mustelidae, bearing 56 species in 22 genera, are the largest and oldest family in the order Carnivora (Nyakatura and Bininda-Emonds 2012). The family originated in Eurasia in the middle-late Miocene and underwent a rapid evolution and diversification, resulting in a remarkable ecomorphological diversity (Koepfli et al. 2008). Koepfli et al. (2008) identified two major clades, Lutrinae and Mustelinae, and eight minor clades of Mustelidae. American and honey badgers (genera Taxidea and Mellivora) are monotypic lineages basal to all other mustelids. The clade Martinae, including taira, wolverine, hog badger, Eurasian badgers (genus Meles), and martens (genus Martes), is in turn basal to the clades Helictinae (ferret badgers), Galictinae (spotted and striped aposematic species: grisons, zorillas, the marbled polecat, and the African striped weasel), Mustelinae (minks...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Abramov, A. V., Puzachenko, A. Y., & Tumanov, I. L. (2016). Morphological differentiation of the skull in two closely-related mustelid species (Carnivora: Mustelidae). Zoological Studies, 55, 1–23.Google Scholar
  2. Berdnikovs, S. (2005). Evolution of sexual dimorphism in mustelids. PhD thesis B.S., University of Latvia.Google Scholar
  3. Berta, A., & Morgan, G. S. (1986). A new sea otter (Carnivora: Mustelidae) from the late Miocene and early Pliocene (Hemphilian) of North America. Journal of Paleontology, 59, 809–919.Google Scholar
  4. Botton-Divet, L., Cornette, R., Houssaye, A., Fabre, A.-C., & Herrel, A. (2017). Swimming and running, a study of the convergences in long bone morphology among semi-aquatic mustelids (Carnivora: Mustelidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 121, 38–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dayan, T., Simberloff, D., Tchernov, E., & Yom-Tov, Y. (1989). Inter- and intraspecific character displacement in mustelids. Ecology, 70(5), 1526–1539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Domingo-Roura, X., Marmi, J., Ferrando, A., Lopez-Giraldez, F., Macdonald, D., & Jansman, H. A. H. (2006). Badger hair in shaving brushes comes from protected Eurasian badgers. Biological Conservation, 128(3), 425–430.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2005.08.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dumont, M., Wall, C. E., Botton-Divet, L., Goswami, A., Peigné, S., & Fabre, A. C. (2016). Do functional demands associated winh locomotor habitat, diet, and activity pattern drive skull shape evolution in musteloid carnivorans? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 117, 858–878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ercoli, M. D., & Youlatos, D. (2016). Integrating locomotion, postures and morphology: The case of the tayra, Eira barbara (Carnivora, Mustelidae). Mammalian Biology, 81(5), 464–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ercoli, M. D., Alvarez, A., Busker, F., Morales, M. M., Julik, E., Smith, H. F., Adrian, B., Barton, M., Bhagavatula, K., Poole, M., Shahsavan, M., Wechsler, R., & Fisher, R. E. (2015). Muscular anatomy of the forelimbs of the lesser grison (Galictis cuja), and a functional and phylogenetic overview of Mustelidae and other Caniformia. Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 22(1), 57–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fabre, A.-C., Cornette, R., Goswami, A., & Peigné, S. (2015). Do constraints associated with the locomotor habitat drive the evolution of forelimb shape? A case study in musteloid carnivorans. Journal of Anatomy, 226, 596–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gliwicz, J. (1988). Sexual dimorphism in small mustelids: Body diameter limitation. Oikos, 53(3), 411–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Groenendijk, J., Hajek, F., Johnson, P. J., Macdonald, D. W., Calvimontes, J., Staib, E., & Schenck, C. (2014). Demography of the Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) in Manu National Park, South-Eastern Peru: Implications for conservation. PLoS One, 9(8), e106202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Halfpenny, J., & Biesiot, E. (1986). A field guide to mammal tracking. Boulder: Johnson Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  14. Hanken, J., & Hall, B. K. (1993). The skull. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hedrick, A. V., & Temeles, E. J. (1989). The evolution of sexual dimorphism in animals: hypotheses and tests. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 4, 136–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. King, C., Powell, R. A., & Powell, C. (2010). The natural history of weasels and stoats: Ecology, behavior, and management (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Koepfli, K. P., Deere, K. A., Slater, G. J., Begg, C., Begg, K., Grassman, L., Lucherini, M., Veron, G., & Wayne, R. K. (2008). Multigene phylogeny of the Mustelidae: Resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation. BMC Biology, 6(1), 4–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kuhn, R. A., & Meyer, W. (2009). Infrared termography of the body surface in the Eurasian otter Lutra lutra and in the giant otter Pteronura brasiliensis. Aquatic Biology, 6, 145–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kuhn, R. A., & Meyer, W. (2010). Comparative hair structure in the Lutrinae (Carnivora: Mustelidae). Mammalia, 74, 291–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Landa, A., Strand, O., Swenson, J. E., & Skogland, T. (1997). Wolverines and their prey in southern Norway. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 75(8), 1292–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Liwanag, H. E. M. (2008). Fur versus blubber: A comparative look at marine mammal insulation and its metabolic and behavioral consequences. PhD dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz.Google Scholar
  22. Liwanag, H. E. M., Berta, A., Costa, D. P., Abney, M., & Williams, T. M. (2012). Morphological and thermal properties of mammalian insulation: The evolution of fur for aquatic living. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 106(4), 926–939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Loy, A., Spinosi, O., & Carlini, R. (2004). Cranial morphology of Martes foina and Martes martes (Mammalia, Carnivora, Mustelidae): The role of size and shape on sexual dimorphism and interspecific differentiation. Italian Journal of Zoology, 71(1), 27–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lynch, J. M., Conroy, A. C., Kitchener, D. J., Jefferies, D. J., & Hayden, T. J. (1996). Variation in cranial form and sexual dimorphism among five European populations of the otter Lutra lutra (L.) Journal of Zoology (London), 238, 81–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Medina-Vogel, G., & Gonzalez-Lagos, C. (2008). Habitat use and diet of endangered southern river otter Lontra provocax in a predominantly palustrine wetland in Chile. Wildlife Biology, 14(2), 211–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Medina-Vogel, G., Rodriguez, C. D., Alvarez, R. E. P., & Jose Luis Bartheld, V. (2004). Feeding ecology of the marine otter (Lutra felina) in a rocky seashore of the south of Chile. Marine Mammal Science, 20, 134–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meiri, S., Dayan, T., & Simberloff, D. (2007). Guild composition and mustelid morphology: Character displacement but no character release. Journal of Biogeography, 34(12), 2148–2158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moors, P. (1980). Sexual dimorphism in the body size of mustelids (Carnivora): The roles of food habits and breeding systems. Oikos, 34(2), 147–158.  https://doi.org/10.2307/3544175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nakajima, Y., & Endo, H. (2013). Comparative humeral microanatomy of terrestrial, semiaquatic and aquatic carnivorans using micro-focus CT scan. Mammal Study, 38, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nyakatura, K., & Bininda-Emonds, O. R. P. (2012). Updating the evolutionary history of Carnivora (Mammalia): A new species-level supertree complete with divergence time estimates. BMC Biology, 10, 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Roper, T. J. (1994). The European badger Meles meles: Food specialist or generalist? Journal of Zoology (London), 22(3), 705–715.Google Scholar
  32. Rozhnov, V. V., & Abramov, A. V. (2006). Sexual dimorphism of marbled polecat Vormela peregusna (Carnivora: Mustelidae). Izvestiia Akademii Nauk. Seriia Biologicheskaia, 33(2), 183–187.Google Scholar
  33. Sato, J. J., Wolsan, M., Prevosti, F. J., D’Elía, G., Begg, C., Hosoda, T., Campbell, K. L., & Suzuki, H. (2012). Evolutionary and biogeographic history of weasel-like carnivorans (Musteloidea). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 63, 745–757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Teerink, B. J. (1991). Hair of West-European Mammals. Atlas and identification key. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Timm-Davis, L. L., DeWitt, T. J., & Marshall, C. D. (2015). Divergent skull morphology supports two trophic specializations in otters (Lutrinae). PLoS One, 10(12), e0143236.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143236CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  36. Toth, M. A. (2002). Identification of Hungarian Mustelidae and other small carnivores using guard hair analysis. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 48(3), 237–250.Google Scholar
  37. Van Valkenburg, B., (1988).Trophic diversity in past and present guilds of large predatory mammals, Paleobiology, 14, 155–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Vaughan, T. A., Ryan, J. M., & Czaplewski, N. J. (2000). Mammalogy: Saunders College Publishing.Google Scholar
  39. Wiig, Ø. (1986). Sexual dimorphism in the skull of minks Mustela vison, badgers Meles meles and otters Lutra lutra. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 87(2), 163–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wolsan, M. (1993). Phylogeny and classification of early European Mustelida (Mammalia: Carnivora). Acta Theriologica, 38, 345–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zielinski, W. J., Duncan, N. P., Farmer, E. C., Truex, R. L., Clevenger, A. P., & Barrett, R. H. (1999). Diet of the fisher at the southernmost extent of its range. Journal of Mammalogy, 80, 961–971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Envix Lab – Department Biosciences and TerritoryUniversity of MolisePescheItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Caroline Leuchtenberger
    • 1
  1. 1.Federal Institute FarroupilhaPanambiBrasil