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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,
we want to contribute to the protection of populations and habitats to raise awareness about the wildlife conservation issue of the Caucasus and about the threatened Sicista species,
we study the biology of these species and describe their habitats in the scientific detail,
we examine the phylogeny and phylogeography of the Caucasians Sicista populations with molecular genetic methods,
we map the actual range,
we want to transmit our knowledge and experience to local researchers and conservation professionals,
we prepare recommendations and action plans for the authorities.
Publications and reports:
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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