Evaluation of a facial feature to distinguish two sympatric Water Shrew species
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Naturmuseum St.Gallen
Online publication date: 2023-12-04
Publication date: 2023-12-04
Corresponding author
Madeleine Geiger   

Naturmuseum St.Gallen
Species identification of the two sympatric Central European Water Shrews Neomys fodiens and N. milleri based on external features is tricky due to a relatively high variability of the traditionally used features (e.g., hair fringe on the hind feet and the tail), which in addition are often not readily visible on camera trap footage. For the Italian populations of these two species, it has relatively recently been suggested that the shape of the facial line of demarcation (line between the dark fur on the dorsal side and the lighter fur on the ventral side) can be used as an additional feature for species identification. In the current study, we evaluated this feature also in populations North of the Alps, focusing on Switzerland and – on a smaller scale – other parts of Europe. The examined, in part genetically identified specimens confirm that the facial line of demarcation shows a characteristic and mostly well discernible dichotomy between N. fodiens and N. milleri: in most of the examined N. milleri the dark facial mask involves the corners of the mouth and/or other parts of the mouth. In N. fodiens, however, there is usually an evenly spaced and relatively broad line of light fur between the mouth and the line of demarcation. This study corroborates that the shape of the facial line of demarcation is a helpful tool for the identification of these two Neomys-species and that this feature can be particularly relevant for studies using non-invasive monitoring methods such as camera traps.
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