Genetic monitoring of the endangered Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) in the Aude River, France

François Gillet, Bruno Le Roux, Frédéric Blanc, Aurélie Bodo, Christine Fournier-Chambrillon, Pascal Fournier, Frédérick Jakob, Vincent Lacaze, Mélanie Némoz, Stéphane Aulagnier, Johan R. Michaux


The Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) is a small semi-aquatic mammal endemic to the Pyrenean Mountains and the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula. This species is currently considered as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List and has been suffering from habitat loss and fragmentation for decades but little is known about the impact of water flow modifications induced by hydroelectric power plants. In order to address this issue we monitored Pyrenean desman individuals living in a harnessed section of the Aude River, by genotyping both faeces samples and hair of live-trapped animals. During a three-year study (2011-2013), a total of 39 individuals were identified using 24 microsatellite loci, 28 from faeces and 11 from trapped animals. Several long distance movements were evidenced up to at least 15 km, a distance that has never previously been reported. These movements might be related to modifications of the river bed caused by very high water flows that occurred during the repair of the Nentilla hydroelectric plant. The local population density suggests that the Aude River provides suitable habitat for the Pyrenean desman, and preservation of this habitat should be a priority for the conservation of this species.


conservation; Galemys pyrenaicus; genetic; microsatellites; monitoring

Full Text:



Bertrand A (1993). Découvrir le Desman des Pyrénées, Ed. A.N.A., 32 p.

Bertrand A (1994). Répartition géographique et écologie alimentaire de desman des pyrénées G. pyrenaicus dans les Pyrénées françaises. Diplôme Universitaire de Recherche, Toulouse, 217p.

Céréghino R & Lavandier P (1997). Influence des éclusées hydroélectriques sur la distribution et le développement larvaire des Diptères Simuliidae d’une rivière de moyenne montagne. Comptes Rendus l’Académie des Sciences. - Series. III - Sciences de la Vie, 320: 329-338

Chora SC & Quaresma CM (2001). Desman, Galemys pyrenaicus, Goeffroy 1811 : spatial use patterns and ability to transpose the Fráguas small hydro (Paiva river, Douro Basin). 4èmes rencontres sur le Desman des Pyrénées, 18-20 octobre 2001, Moulis: 6 p.

D’Amico F, Manel S, Mouches C & Ormerod SJ (2000). River birds in regulated rivers : cost or benefit ? Verhandlungen des Internationalen Verein Limnologie, 27: 167–170.

Eggert LS, Eggert JA & Woodruff DS (2003). Estimating population sizes for elusive animals: the forest elephants of Kakum National Park, Ghana. Molecular Ecology, 12: 1389–1402.

Fernandes M, Herrero J, Aulagnier S & Amori G (2008). Galemys pyrenaicus. IUCN Red List Threat. Species. Version 2013.2.

Gillet F, Cabria MT, Némoz M, Blanc F, Fournier-Chambrillon C, Sourp E, Vial-Novella C, Aulagnier S & Michaux JR (2015a). PCR-RFLP identification of the endangered Pyrenean desman, Galemys pyrenaicus (Soricomorpha, Talpidae), based on faecal DNA. Mammalia, 79: 473-477.

Gillet F, Cabria MT, Blanc F, Fournier-Chambrillon C, Némoz M, Sourp E, Vial-Novella C, Aulagnier S & Michaux JR (2015b, in prep.). Isolation, characterization and PCR multiplexing of polymorphic microsatellite markers in the endangered Pyrenean desman, Galemys pyrenaicus. Conservation Genetics Resources.

Gisbert J & Garciá-Perea R (2004). Estudio cuantitativo sobre la población de Desmán Ibérico en el valle del Ambroz y Topillo de Cabrera en el norte de Extremadura. Junta de Extremadura, 400 pp.

González-Esteban J, Villate I & Castien E (2003). A comparison of methodologies used in the detection of the Pyrenean desman Galemys pyrenaicus (E. Geoffroy, 1811). Mammalian Biology, 68: 387–390.

Melero Y, Aymerich P, Luque-Larena JJ & Gosàlbez J (2012). New insights into social and space use behaviour of the endangered Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus). European Journal of Wildlife Research, 58: 185–193.

Melero Y, Aymerich P, Santulli G & Gosàlbez J (2014). Activity and space patterns of Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) suggest non-aggressive and non-territorial behaviour. Eur. J. Wildl. Res., 60: 707–715. d

Mondol S, Karanth KU, Kumar NS, Gopalaswamy AM, Andheria A & Ramakrishnan U (2009a). Evaluation of non-invasive genetic sampling methods for estimating tiger population size. Biological Conservation, 142: 2350–2360.

Mondol S, Navya R, Athreya V, Sunagar K, Selvaraj VM & Ramakrishnan U (2009b). A panel of microsatellites to individually identify leopards and its application to leopard monitoring in human dominated landscapes. Bmc Genetics, 10: 79

Nilsson C & Dynesius M (1994). Ecological effects of river regulation on mammals and birds: A review. Regulated Rivers: Research &Management, 9: 45–53.

Nores C, Ojeda F, Ruano A, Villate I, Gonzalez J, Cano JM & Garcia E (1998). Estimating the population density of Galemys pyrenaicus in four Spanish rivers. Journal of Zoology, 246: 454–457.

Nores C, Queiroz AI & Gisbert J (2007). Galemys pyrenaicus (E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1811)., in: Palomo, L., Gisbert, J., Blanco, J. (Eds.), Atlas Y Libro Rojo de Los Mamíferos Terrestres de España. Madrid: Dirección General para la Biodiversidad - SECEM - SECEMU, pp. 92–98.

Queiroz AI, Alves MH & Almada V (1992). The small hydroplants : predicted impacts on the Pyrenean desman populations (Galemys pyrenaicus. Geoffroy). In: Proceeding Meeting on the Pyrenean Desman. Lisboa, pp. 69–77.

Rousset F (2008). genepop’007: a complete re-implementation of the genepop software for Windows and Linux. Mol. Ecol. Resour, 8: 103–6.

Silva E (2001). Estudo da capacidade de transposição de obstáculo do rio Ardena pela toupeira de água (Galemys pyrenaicus). Relatório de Estágio para obtenção da licenciatura em Biologia, pela Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto.

Stone RD (1987a). The activity pattern of the Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) (Insectivora : Talpidae), as determined under natural condition. Journal of Zoology, 213: 95–106.

Stone RD (1987b). The social ecology of the Pyrenean desman as revealed by radiotracking. Journal of Zoology, 212: 117–129.

Taberlet P, Camarra JJ, Griffin S, Uhres E, Hanotte O, Waits LP, Dubois Paganon C, Burke T & Bouvet J (1997). Noninvasive genetic tracking of the endangered Pyrenean brown bear population. Molecular Ecology, 6: 869–876.

Taberlet P, Griffin S, Goossens B, Questiau S, Manceau V, Escaravage N, Waits LP & Bouvet J (1996). Reliable genotyping of samples with very low DNA quantities using PCR. Nucleic Acids Research, 24: 3189–94.

Valière N (2002). GIMLET: a computer program for analysing genetic individual identification data. Molecular Ecology Notes, 2: 377–379.

Van Oosterhout C, Hutchinson WF, Wills DPM & Shipley P (2004). Micro-Checker: Software for Identifying and Correcting Genotyping Errors in Microsatellite Data. Molecular Ecology Notes, 4: 535–538. http://dx.doi/org0.1111/j.1471-8286.2004.00684.x

Waits L.P., Luikart G., Taberlet P. (2001). Estimating the probability of identity among genotypes in natural populations: cautions and guidelines. Molecular Ecology. 10, 249–56.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

The Royal Belgian Society of Zoology acknowledges the Universitarian Foundation of Belgium and the National Fund of Scientific Research for their financial support in publishing the Belgian Journal of Zoology.