Did You Know? 21 Incredible Desman Facts

Some interesting and fun desman facts that will amaze you.

Read some interesting facts about the Pyrenean desman and the Russian desman.

The desman is a mammal from the family of Talpidae. It is a European mammal related to moles. It is found as two different species varying in location, appearance, and other characteristics. The Russian desman, scientifically called Desmana moschata and the Pyrenean desman, belonging to the genus of Galemys.

It is a brown-colored mole with specialized scent-glands, a snout, webbed feet with fringed hairs, and a long tail. It inhabits freshwater, mountainous rivers, and its banks. It is an endemic species as it is found and recorded in a particular range of locations.

Russian desman is tagged as the largest and heaviest among the family of moles.

If the uniqueness of the desman makes you interested to read more about similar species, you can read about mole and field vole.


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Water invertebrates like crustaceans, plants, fish, and amphibians

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

1.2-7.76 oz (35-220 g)

How long are they?

4.3-8.2 in (11-21 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?


Skin Type

Hair and fur

What are their main threats?

Humans, habitat loss, natural calamities, and extreme weather

What is their conservation status?


Where you'll find them

Freshwaters like rivers, ponds, and lakes







Scientific Name





Desmana and Galemys

Desman Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a desman?

A desman is a type of mammal, a mole. There are two kinds: the Russian desman, scientifically called Desmana moschata, and the Pyrenean desman, scientifically called Galemys pyrenaicus.

What class of animal does a desman belong to?

A desman belongs to the Eurasian mole family of Talpidae.

How many desmans are there in the world?

According to the survey done in the '70s, there were around 70,000 species recorded which reduced to 35,000 in 2014. There is no record stating the exact number of desmans around the world. These are some of the rarest species of moles and are now one of the threatened species.

Where does a desman live?

Desmans are found around the European continent. Different species of the genera Desmana and Galemys are found in different places around the globe. The Desmana moschata inhabits the rivers and their banks in and around Russia, and the Pyrenean desman inhabits mountainous rivers and banks in Spain, Portugal, French Pyrenees, and Andorra.

What is a desman's habitat?

A desman, which is a semi-aquatic mammal, is recorded to live in and around freshwater. Its natural habitat mainly revolves around aquatic bodies like rivers and their banks, lakes, and ponds.

Who do desmans live with?

Desmans are found to live in groups under a den, burrow, or hole. They are found in groups of two to eight species at a time.

How long does a desman live?

A desman is documented to have a life span of around three to four years.

How do they reproduce?

There is a lack of information and studies in regard to desman's biological characteristics. Desmans are said to have the ability to reproduce twice annually. Litters of around one to five are documented.

What is their conservation status?

The desmans are one of the most threatened species due to their natural habitat loss, pollution, and other natural calamities. They are labeled as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A Pyrenean desman is speculated to be Endangered considering its vulnerable habitat and regression in population.

Desman Fun Facts

What do desmans look like?

Desmans, of the family of moles, are found in two different genera: the Russian desman, and the Pyrenean desman. Both have variance in their appearance and features. Some common features noticed between both are a snout, webbed paws, and naked tailed. They are found in different shades of brown and are adaptable to various colors. Mostly, they are found in the taupe, meaning mole.  A desman has tiny eyes and no external ears. The huge hind feet are webbed to the edge with fringed hairs. Pyrenean desman is found with a dark-brownish color body except for the nose and its tail, while its nose is covered in black and facial hairs, the nose is naked.  On the other hand, a Russian desman is covered in reddish-brown fur with a gray-colored belly. It has an elongated and flexible body.

Russian desman is a taupe-colored insect with a snout and naked long tail.

How cute are they?

Desmans are not found to be cute or attractive to many as they are scary and weird-looking species. With an elongated taupe-colored body, a snout, and a naked tail, desmans are unattractive and ugly.

How do they communicate?

Desmans are predicted to create noises useful in echolocation to communicate with each other. Slapping the surface of the water, washing, scratching with hind feet, biting out of nails and furs are some of the actions speculating communication between the species. There are also speculations that these are done to comfort itself by grooming and supporting the heat-insulating properties of its fur.

How big is a desman?

Desmans are found to be of considerable size under the family of moles within the range of 4.3-8.2 in (11-21 cm) of length. One of the Russian desman facts is that it is known to be the largest of moles.

How fast can a desman run?

Desmans are said to be quite good swimmers in aquatic bodies but slow-moving species when on land. The nocturnal Pyrenean desman is known to be a fast swimmer, primarily with its hind legs and feet. But neither of them can move faster than the naked mole-rat.

How much does a desman weigh?

The desman is studied to weigh around 1.2-7.8 oz (35-220 g). The Russian desman is said to weigh heavier than the Pyrenean desman as the Pyrenean weighs around 1.2-2.82 oz (35-80 g), while the Russian weighs around 3.52–7.76 oz (100-220 g). The marsupial mole is said to be heavier than the desman in accordance with its length and is much smaller than the desman found in Russia.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no different names assigned to species on the basis of their sex. There are two different genera under the species of desman and the scientific names are known as Desmana moschata and Galemys pyrenaicus.

What would you call a baby desman?

A young or baby desman is not specified with any different name other than the parent species. In layman terms, you can call it a young desman.

What do they eat?

Diet and feeding habits of a desman also vary on the basis of location it is found. A Russian desman eats aquatic organisms such as fish, mollusks, tiny amphibians, crustaceans, and other insects. It also feeds on plant species nourishing on the lands of ponds, lakes, banks of rivers. While Pyrenean are carnivores or insectivores and feed on aquatic insect nymph and larva, crustaceans, and also fish found in or around the range of their habitat.

Are they dangerous?

There are no documentaries related to desmans stating that they are a kind of dangerous species. They do not harm any human or big mammals, rather are dangerous to tiny amphibians, fish, and insects as they are a part of their diets. A desman does not even harm the environment.

Would they make a good pet?

A desman, with its appearance, doesn't really attract you to pet them. Since they are harmless, they can be petted but they are not an ideal pet, unlike mice, which are great.

Did you know...

A desman is nocturnal in nature since they are mostly sighted during the day and rarely during the nighttime. It also moves around a lot in order to probe the bottom and bank of water bodies in search of food and also due to the varying water levels of the local water bodies.

Desmans rarely dig their burrows but are found seeking shelter in burrows of water rats, rock crevices, caves, and dens. Also, the territories of desman are protected and defended with the scent produced by desmans utilizing the specialized scent-glands.

A desman dies in a short span of time of around five to ten minutes of being trapped in a net or web trap.

Different types of desman

There are basically two species of desman: Russian and Pyrenean desman. While a Russian desman is heavier than a Pyrenean, it is slow-moving than a Pyrenean, since the Pyrenean is said to be a fast swimmer. There are various differences and similarities in their appearances. The tail of a Russian desman is flattened horizontally unlike a Pyrenean. They are mostly differentiated on the basis of the location they are found in.

Is the desman endemic?

Yes, since a desman is found within a particular range of locations. A Russian desman is found in and around Russia, while Pyrenean are found around the mountainous regions of the Iberian Peninsula.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these black rat snake facts and slender-snouted crocodile facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable mole coloring pages.

*Please note that the main image is of a muskrat, not a desman. If you have an image of a desman, please let us know at



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