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Wikimedia/David Perez

Bet You’ve Never Heard of the Water Rat With a Snorkel Nose

What do you get when you cross a rat and an aardvark and throw it in the water?


What do you get when you cross a rat and an aardvark and throw it in the water? A Pyrenean desman. This little aquatic mammal is the perfect combination of cute and weird. And guess what? It needs your help.

The Pyrenean desman may look like a rat, but it's actually not a rodent.

Pyrenean desman

Giphy

It's in the same order (Eulipotyphla) as moles and shrews. It's only found in Western Europe.

Pyrenean desmans spends most of their time in the water, using their long noses as snorkels.

Pyrenean desman Wikimedia/David Perez

They usually only come out at night, which may explain why the one in the video above is so frantically looking for a place to hide. They eat small invertebrates like snails and shrimp.

The Pyrenean desman belongs to a tribe called Desmaninae.

pyrenean desman David Perez/Wikimedia Commons

A tribe is a level of taxonomic classification which is above genus but below family. There are only two species left in the Desmaninae tribe: the Pyrenean desman and the Russian desman.

This is why biologists are so interested in the Pyrenean desman. Millions of years ago, there were many more aquatic mammals belonging to the tribe. Why did they all die out and only two species remain?

What is it about the two remaining desmans that enabled them to survive?

Unfortunately, the Pyrenean desman's population has declined about 60 percent over the last 20 years, because of water pollution and habitat destruction.

Pyrenean desman The Pyrenean desman lives in rivers and streams in the Pyrenees mountains. (dedipo/Pixabay)

Scientists believe the Pyrenean desman used to be found all over Portugal, Spain and France. But its range seems to have shrunk. Catalonia's Alt Pirineu Natural Park is one of the species' last strongholds.

The Pyrenean desman may not be the most charming aquatic mammal, but it still deserves our help. Scientists are currently doing more research on the species to figure out the best way to save it.

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