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BIRCH MICE (SICISTA) OF THE CAUCASUS

                                

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014-2016     Contact: info 'at' sicista.hu

 © Photos: T. Cserkész, D. Czabán, A.Martynov, M. Rusin; A.Tikhonov.  All rights reserved. Last update: 2016. március 20., 08.47:25 +0100 

In the Caucasus Mts. the S. strandi represents – not in a taxonomical sense – the “striped birch mice” because “the real Caucasian birch mice”,  member of  Sicista caucasica group have no strip on the back, they represent one of the most ancient forms of the genus Sicista. In Greater Caucasus actually 3 chromosome races are discriminated within S. caucasica group, all of them have full species status actually. These sibling species are S. kazbegica, S. kluchorica and the S. caucasica. The fourth member of the group, the S. armenica occurs further away from the others, it lives not even in the Great Caucasus, but in the Lesser Caucasus, in the territory of Armenia, with a single known location. This fact is also points out how these cryptic species are insufficiently studied here.

These small species are endangered and threatened according to the IUCN’s Red List which is legitimated because very few occurrences are known and the habitats are endangered by the increased exploitation (overgrazing, road and summer resort – Russian datcha - constructions etc.) as well as by the recent explosion in winter sport and tourism developments. However, our results indicate that the birch mice are still relatively widespread in the mountains and in suitable habitats they may be even common so in situ conservation is still possible by the protection of the habitats. The taxonomical revision of Caucasian birch mice is also an important task.

In our project,

Publications and reports:

Our first report about the expedition in the Hungarian "Földgömb" traveller magazine.

Mikhail Rusin's report about the results of the expedition.

The Caucasus is a region at the border of Europe and Asia, situated between the Black and the Caspian seas. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, which contain Europe's highest mountain, Mount Elbrus. Actually two forms of genus Sicista are known from the Caucasus: the Sicista strandi and the Sicista caucasica complex. The S. strandi is not a typical mountain species since its range covers rather the lowland steppes. In the Cis-Caucasus it expands till 2300 m asl on the southern exposure slope steppes. It occurs only in the European part of the mountain; there is not a single occurrence from the Trans-Caucasus.

S. kluchorica                                                                                                    S. caucasica

S. kazbegica in torpor                                                                            In certain habitats the Caucasian birch mouse is common

our team with local experts (in N Ossetia)

road construction in a Sicista habitat (Karachay–Cherkess Republic)

type locality of S. caucasica faces danger as another tourist's hotel being constructed (Republic of Adygea)

 

field work in Adygea and North Ossetia

in some cases travelling with all the buckets to the localities of S. kazbegica was quite a challenge (M.Rusin, A.Tikhonov and A.Martynov)

members of the first Caucasian trip (left to right): D. Czaban, M. Rusin, T. Cserkesz, G. Sramko, and of the 2nd trip: M. Rusin and A. Tikhonov

 

The project was financed by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

 

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