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Ventmust

the gliding weasel

in the Neocene subtropical woods had returned to Europe. But trees forming them were not natives from the south. Mediterranean Sea, the shelter of thermophilic flora, had turned to heated salt desert, and the rich southern flora was lost, having replaced by drought-resistant plants of desert. Trees of European forests are descendants of species of flora of temperate latitudes: broad-leaved oaks and maples, relic plane trees, nut trees, beeches and chestnut trees. They had managed to survive in mountain valleys during the ice age, and after restoration of conditions favorable for life, had formed rich shady forests, stretched by strip from the Central Europe (to the north of the Alpes) through Tatra Mountains and Carpathian Mountains up to coast of Fourseas. On the ground under forest canopy a few kinds of animals live, and the majority of inhabitants of European deciduous forests live in forest canopy. As against tropical rainforests, in European subtropical forests there are only few species of lianes, and crones of separate trees are not connected by them together. Therefore in canopy of European forests only ones live, able to fly well or … to make long gliding jumps. Abundance of prey had involved to forest canopy the predator perfectly adapted to movement in such inhabitancy. It is the representative of mustelid family, the gliding weasel. The European gliding weasel has kept small size, characteristic for many mustelid species. The length of body of this animal is about 30 cm, and about 20 cm falls to fluffy tail. Between paws of gliding weasel skin membrane is advanced, permitting this little mammal to make long gliding jumps from tree to tree. Head of animal is small and rounded, with short ears. Eyes are shifted to forward part of skull and provide good three-dimensional vision – it is vital for animal living in a forest canopy to estimate distance before a jump more precisely. The short wool of gliding weasel is colored brown, and on tail there are some black rings. The bottom part of body of gliding weasel is snow-white. To winter at individuals in northern part of area wool turns longer and a little lighter. This animal is active and successful predator (it has received the specific name in honour of goddess of hunting of western Slavs). At gliding weasel there are large canines, and mouth can open very widely. Gliding weasel eats various forest rodents, bats and birds. This predator kills prey by bite in head. Gliding weasel often ravages bird nests, showing miracles of acrobatics and dexterously landing even on very thin twigs where the nest is built. This animal can climb in hollows to bee nests in searches of honey, and eats other insects and large spiders. Gliding weasel spends not whole life in tree crones. It often goes down on the ground in searches of forage. Being a predator by its nature, it does not disdain ripe berries, and in autumn cracks large oily seeds of beeches and chestnuts which grow in forests of Southern Europe much. On the ground this animal eats worms and insects. This mammal is able to climb on trees as dexterously, as squirrel, despite of presence of gliding membrane. Gliding weasel is a solitary animal. Each individual has site in forest and marks it with odorous musky secretions. The territory of animal includes not only a part of crones of trees, but also trunks and the ground under trees. Gliding weasel pair two times per year. First time courtship games occur at the end of winter when night frosts stop. Males start to come in territory of females and to leave their own odorous marks near female’s ones. If the female is ready to pairing, her musky secretions get a special smell well distinguishing by males. When the male feels it, he tries to reach the female as soon as possible. Sometimes at once some males follow one female. They constantly compete with each other, a

nd sometimes can bite each other, putting deep painful wounds. Sometimes competing males seize each other’s gliding membrane, and one of them can pay for failure in courtship season by loss of ability to make gliding jumps. Eventually, near the female only one male stays, which pairs with her. After the pairing the female banishes the male. Pregnancy lasts till about two months, and in second half of spring the female gives rise to 4 – 6 cubs. They are blind and helpless, and female looks after them within 2 months before they become independent. She hides cubs in deep hollow of tree at the big height. Young gliding weasels differ from adults in darker colouring of wool and absence of strips on tail. Second time for a season the female is ready to pairing approximately in one month after cubs had ceased to suck milk. The first days of pregnancy the female concerns to grown up cubs tolerantly, but later starts to express aggression to them more often, and compels them to live independently. Second time it brings posterity at the end of summer. In the second litter it is less number of cubs – only two or three ones. But they are larger, than ones in first litter, and become quite independent predators to the beginning of winter.  The main enemy of these animals is large gospodar woodpecker which pecks out tree-trunk hollows and can eat newborn cubs of gliding weasel.

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