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The Hungarian birch mouse (Sicista trizona)

The Hungarian birch mouse Sicista trizona (Frivaldszky, 1865)  – differing from other species of S. subtilis group in phallic morphology (Méhely 1913) – is one of the rarest and least known small mammal species in Europe.  Occurrences are confined to Hungary and Romania. The author of S.  trizona was changed recently from Petényi, 1882 to Frivaldszky, 1865 because the scientific binomen Mus trizonus was introduced first by Frivaldszky in 1865 as a junior synonym of Sminthus vagus (Frivaldszky 1865). The manuscript notes of Petényi were published in 1882 (Chyzer 1882), which included a detailed description of Mus trizonus. On the basis of clear evidences the two nominal taxa were based on the same syntypic material of five individuals. According to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature the author of the scientific name Mus trizonus is Frivaldszky (for a detailed nomenclature see Bálint & Gubányi 2006).

It is extinct in Austria (Pucek 1999). The last published data from its known Serbian locality (Deliblat) date from the 1980s (Ham et al. 1983, Petrov 1992), and the species has not been detected ever since, in spite of expedient research (M. Paunovic, pers. comm.). Recent specimens were found in Slovakia near the Hungarian border in owl pellets produced 20–30 years ago (Demeter & Obuch 2004). According to G. Demeter (pers. comm.) who found these specimens, this species does not probably occur in this region already.

In the 1920s Vásárhelyi (1929a, b) studied the species, examined its behaviour, kept it in terrarium, bred it and published on it. Cerva collected Sicista since 1891. It’s interesting that he caught the first mice with butterfly net. The last specimen was caught in Hungary in 1926 before 2006 (Vásárhelyi 1929) and up to 2006 it was detected only from owl pellets, but in less and less localities (Schmidt 1962, 1971, Cserkész 2004). Populations of the endangered Sicista trizona have suffered increasing fragmentation and isolation over the recent past, and the distribution of this unique rodent has become restricted to 3% of its historical range, and remaining habitats are highly fragmented and most located on suboptimal terrain. In addition to a natural eastward area-regression begun in the Holocene, destruction and contamination of the undisturbed lowland habitats are responsible for its endangerment. As in the case of several other species, the Central-European Sicista population collapsed in the 1960s, due to the dynamically intensifying agriculture. Today, the range of the trizona has shrunken into only two locations, nearing extinction. The species conservation project for S. trizona began in 2004 (Cserkész 2004) in Hungary.

It is strictly protected under Hungarian laws and Bern Convention and is listed as endangered in the Hungarian Red Data Book. Southern birch mouse is also listed in the EU Habitat Directive II. and IV.


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 © Photos: Cserkész Tamás; Contact: info 'at' All rights reserved. Last update: 2015. december 29., 08.32:20 +0100