It really is true what they say – that the more you know about something the more you realize you know nothing. Or something like that. The point is, the more research I do about strange and wonderful animals, the more I realize how many strange and wonderful animals there are out there that I’ve never heard of. It should be daunting to realize this, but it’s not. It just means that this blog can go on for a long, long time.

Anyway, today’s animal, the Pyrenean desman, is a mammal I’d never heard of, and one that looks quite hilarious. They are related to moles and shrews, but have quite a different lifestyle from their relatives. They can be found in the Pyrenees mountains, in France and northern Iberia. They are water creatures, choosing to live in mountain lakes, streams and rivers.

A nice picture of the desman’s ridiculous nose.
Image by Galemys_pyrenaicus_02_by-dpc.jpg: David Perez derivative work: Guérin Nicolas, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pyrenean desmans are quite small, reaching only 16 cm in length with a weigh of up to 80 grams. Desmans are built for an aquatic lifestyle; they have large webbed back paws for swimming, can close their ears and nose to prevent water from entering, and a long tail that is used as a rudder. Oh and they have a giant weird looking nose that is very sensitive and can use echolocation.

Desmans hunt small crustaceans and insects, using its nose to locate prey. They hunt nocturnally, so eyesight isn’t too helpful. Instead they stick their big nose into crevices or muddy water bottoms and use their long whiskers to detect prey movements.

During the day desmans hide out in rock crevices or burrows (not dug themselves, because apparently they are super lazy). They tend to live in pairs, with the male’s territory surrounding the female’s. Pyrenean desmans are very territorial, marking their home range with scent glands, and defending them to the death. They breed from January to May, and have litters of three to four young. The gestation period is quite quick, only a month, and weaning is equally fast.

As far as mammals go, I consider moles pretty strange looking. The Pyrenean desman, however, beats your average mole by a long shot. There’s just something about that nose that is quite… captivating.

Cover image by David Perez, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons