The Russian Desman Desmana moschata (Linnaeus, 1758) is a highly endangered semiaquatic mammal, confined to disjunct areas. Between 1983 and 1992 several specimens were kept and investigated, firstly in the zoological garden of Moscow (4 ♀ ♀, 1 ♂), and afterwards in the field station of the former Soviet-Russian Academy of Sciences at Cernogolovka (1 ♀, 4 ♂ ♂). Parallel to this, numerous extended field trips to the huge wetlands of the Oka Reserve allowed the verification of the results obtained in captivity. An unexpectedly rich repertoire of acoustic signals was recorded and transferred to sonagrams in Vienna/Austria. After tentative interpretation, the acoustic signals were correlated with simultaneous behaviour patterns. Not only the essential importance of intraspecific vocalizations was shown, but also a fascinating versatility and variability of the phonetical signals was discovered. Contrary to the notorious unsociableness of most insectivores, Desmana moschata is different. In this respect it is probably similar to another semiaquatic talpid, Condylura cristata Linnaeus, 1758. Throughout the year, both sexes of Desmana moschata may stay together, provided there is only one adult female present. In this set-up, even an added male newcomer is tolerated, provided he keeps out of the way for a couple of days. Generally, females seem to be absolutely dominant, which appears from their regular territorial dominance.

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Contributions to Zoology

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Naturalis journals & series

Romanow, P., Poduschka, W., & Deutsch, W. (1996). Zur intraspezifischen Lautkommunikation des Russischen Desmans Desmana moschata (Linnaeus, 1758) (Insectivora: Talpidae: Desmaninae) nebst einigen Angaben zu seinem Sozialverhalten. Contributions to Zoology, 66(1), 43–54.