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Mustela felipei (Carnivora: Mustelidae)
Author(s): Héctor E. Ramírez Chaves and Bruce D. Patterson
Source: Mammalian Species, 46(906):11-15. 2014.
Published By: American Society of Mammalogists
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Mustela felipei (Carnivora: Mustelidae)
ECTOR E. RAM´
IREZ CHAVES AND BRUCE D. PATTERSON
University of Queensland, School of Biological Sciences, Goddard Building 8, St. Lucia 4072, Australia; firstname.lastname@example.org
Integrative Research Center, Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA; bpatterson@
Abstract: Mustela felipei Izor and de la Torre, 1978, is a mustelid commonly called the Colombian or Don Felipe’s weasel
and is South America’s smallest weasel. It is also the darkest weasel in South America, with little variation in dorsal
coloration; the venter is cream-colored with an oval spot the same color as the dorsum. The species is endemic to the Andes.
Known from 6 specimens and 5 localities in Colombia and Ecuador, it may be the rarest carnivore in South America.
Globally, it is considered ‘‘Vulnerable’’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources,
although in Colombia it is considered ‘‘Endangered.’’
Key words: Andes, carnivore, Colombia, Ecuador, weasel
Ó8 August 2014 American Society of Mammalogists
Synonymy completed 21 November 2013
DOI: 10.1644/906 www.mammalogy.org
Mustela felipei Izor and de la Torre, 1978
Mustela felipei Izor and de la Torre, 1978:92. Type locality
‘‘Santa Marta, elevation 2,700 m, near San Agustin,
[Mustela frenata]aureoventris: Hall, 1951:401. Part, not
Mustela frenata aureoventris Gray, 1864.
Mustela (Grammogale)felipei: Izor and de la Torre,
1978:101. Name combination.
Mustela felepei Youngman, 1982:31. Incorrect subsequent
spelling of Mustela felipei Izor and de la Torre, 1978.
Mustela (Grammogale)felipei: Izor and Peterson, 1985:790.
Mustela (Cabreragale)felipei: Baryshnikov and Abramov,
1997:1409. Name combination.
CONTEXT AND CONTENT. Order Carnivora, suborder Can-
iformia, family Mustelidae, subfamily Mustelinae, genus
Mustela. M. felipei is monotypic (Wozencraft 2005).
NOMENCLATURAL NOTES. The speciﬁc epithet name, felipei,
was given in honor of Philip Hershkovitz (Izor and de la
Torre 1978). English common names are Colombian weasel
and Don Felipe’s weasel; local names used include chucur,
chucuri, chucuro, comadreja, condumb´
ı, and cundum´
although the same local names also are used for Mustela
ıguez-Mahecha et al. 1995; Fawcett et al. 1996;
Mustela felipei has been included in the subgenus
Grammogale, together with M. africana (Izor and de la
Torre 1978; Youngman 1982), and Grammogale may
warrant recognition as a distinct genus (Izor and de la
Torre 1978). Bacular characteristics distinguish the species
of Grammogale from all other extant New World mustelids
(Izor and Peterson 1985). Bacular characteristics also were
among the criteria used to include M. felipei in the subgenus
Cabreragale (Baryshnikov and Abramov 1997; Abramov
1999). The genus Vison has been suggested to include M.
felipei,M. africana,M. frenata, and Neovison (formerly M.
vison); this proposal would restrict Mustela to include
weasels and ferrets with Eurasian or Holarctic distributions
(Harding and Smith 2009).
Fig. 1.—Dorsal, lateral, and ventral views of the study skin of the
holotype of Mustela felipei (FMNH [Field Museum of Natural
History] 70999). Photograph by B. D. Patterson. This species has
not yet been photographed alive, either in nature or captivity.
Body size of Mustela felipei averages smaller than the
other South American weasels, M. africana (Amazon weasel)
and M. frenata (long-tailed weasel), and the dorsal color is
darker than in these congeners (Izor and de la Torre 1978).
M. felipei exhibits a ventral spot on its chest or neck (Figs. 1
and 2) that is the same color as the dorsum (Izor and de la
Torre 1978). The tail is short and lacks a black tip. The soles
of the feet lack fur (Izor and de la Torre 1978; Ram´
Chaves and Mantilla-Meluk 2009; Fig. 2). The skull of M.
felipei (Fig. 3) has a wide mesopterygoid fossa with
subparallel margins. The auditory bullae are short and broad
compared to M. africana and M. frenata, and are more
inﬂated posteromedially. The lambdoidal crest is weakly
developed. The nasals are narrow and anteriorly less ﬂaring
in comparison with M. frenata. The p2 is reduced and almost
equal in size to m2 (this tooth is larger in M. frenata and
absent in M. africana [Izor and de la Torre 1978]).
Mustela felipei presents an elongate body, small head,
and short, rounded, and stubby ears. The dorsal pelage is
uniformly dark brown with little variation from nose to tail.
The venter is light orange-buff fading to whitish on the chin
extending posteriorly in a band (20 mm wide) from the lower
Fig. 2.—The right forefoot (top) of the paratype (FMNH [Field
Museum of Natural History] 86745), showing interdigital webbing,
and the baculum (bottom) of the holotype of Mustela felipei
(FMNH 70999). Photograph by B. D. Patterson.
Fig. 3.—Dorsal, ventral, and lateral views of skull and lateral view
of mandible of the adult male holotype of Mustela felipei (FMNH
[Field Museum of Natural History] 70999) from Santa Marta, near
ın, Huila, Colombia. Condylobasal length of the skull is
42.6 mm. Photograph by B. D. Patterson.
12 46(906)—Mustela felipei
lip and corners of the mouth, to the lower abdomen (Fig. 1).
Individual hairs are uniform in color from base to tip and
the underfur is paler than the guard hairs (Izor and de la
Torre 1978). A ventral dark brown marking, generally oval
and 15–50 mm long, is located on the throat or upper chest;
a specimen from Ecuador presents a 2nd small mark of 26
mm, and a 3rd mark in the abdominal area (Izor and de la
Torre 1978; Ram´
ırez-Chaves and Mantilla-Meluk 2009).
Average external measurements (mm; with parenthetical
range and n) of adult males and females, respectively, were:
total length, 347 (324–390, 3), 347 (1); length of tail, 114
(100–140, 4), 118 (115–122, 2); length of hind foot, 45 (41–
50, 2), 38 (37.6–38, 2); length of ear, 18 (1 male and 1
The skull shows features reminiscent of an immature
animal (rounded appearance, inﬂated braincase, and lack
or reduction of prominent crests for muscle attachment,
relative to other weasels [Fig. 3]). The postorbital
constriction is not pronounced; the least postorbital
breadth is equal to one-half or more of the zygomatic
breadth (Izor and de la Torre 1978). Average craniodental
measurements (mm; with parenthetical range and n)of
adult males and females, respectively, were: condylobasal
length, 42.9 (42.4–43.9, 3), 41.5 (1); zygomatic breadth,
25.8 (25.2–26.4, 3), 23.5 (1); mesopterygoid fossa breadth,
4.2 (4.1–4.38, 4), 3.85 (1); least interorbital breadth, 12.3
(10.7–13.2, 3), 10.5 (1); length of upper toothrow, 14.9
(14.5–15.4, 4), 15.4 (1). Additional cranial measurements
are available (Izor and de la Torre 1978; Ram´
and Mantilla-Meluk 2009).
Mustela felipei is known from only 5 localities (Fig. 4), 4
in Colombia and 1 in Ecuador, over an elevational range
from 1,525 to 2,700 m (Ram´
ırez-Chaves and Mantilla-
Meluk 2009; Ram´
ırez-Chaves et al. 2012). The northern-
most record is located at Alto de Gala
´pagos, in the Western
Cordillera of Colombia, on the limits between the depart-
ments of Choc´
oand Valle del Cauca (48510N, 768250W,
2,000 m—Alberico 1994) and the southernmost record is
located near Baeza, in the province of Napo, northeastern
versant of the Andes of Ecuador (08250S, 778550W, 1,525
m—Schreiber et al. 1989; Ram´
ırez-Chaves and Mantilla-
Meluk 2009). The other 3 conﬁrmed localities are: Colom-
bia, department of Huila, Palestina, Parque Nacional
Natural Cueva de Los Guacharos, valle del r´
(018370N, 768060W, 2,080 m); Huila, San Agust´
Marta, east ﬂank of the Central Cordillera (28330N,
768390W, 2,700 m); and department of Cauca, Popaya
west ﬂank of the Central Cordillera (28270N, 768370W, 1,750
ırez-Chaves and Mantilla-Meluk 2009; Ram´
Chaves et al. 2012). No fossils are known.
FORM AND FUNCTION
The vertebral formula of the type specimen is 7 C, 14 T,
6 L, 3 S, 22 Ca, total 52. The caudal vertebrae are
disproportionately short from the 1st to the 3rd and from
16th through 19th. The posteroventral processes on the
centra of the 3rd through 5th cervical vertebrae are small
and single (they are triple in Nearctic Mustela—Izor and de
la Torre 1978). In the pelvis of a male specimen, the angle
formed by the inferior rami of the pubes at the posterior end
of the pubic symphysis in caudal aspect is acute (this is
perpendicular in M. frenata—Izor and de la Torre 1978).
Both of the articular surfaces of the shoulder joint, on
the scapula and the humerus, are relatively large. The
trochlea and capitulum of the humerus are at the same level
on the distal end, so the axis of their articular surfaces is at
right angles to the shaft. The mesiolateral axis of the head of
the femur is nearly at right angles to its shaft (Izor and de la
The baculum of Mustela felipei (Fig. 2) has a slender
shaft with a shallow, narrow urethral groove and an
expanded base. The baculum curves approximately 908
dorsally; it has a triﬁd distal end, with the processes nearly
equidistant in distal view (Izor and de la Torre 1978). The
triﬁd tip is a character shared with M. africana (Izor and
In the skull, no sagittal crest is formed because of the
arrangement of the 2 temporalis muscles; these gradually
approach one another posteriorly, but they do not meet. The
lambdoidal crest is weakly developed. The auditory bullae
are inﬂated posteromedially, and the associated foramina
Fig. 4.—Geographic distribution of Mustela felipei. Localities are:
1, Alto de Gala
´pagos (northernmost record); 2, Baeza
(southernmost record); 3, valle del r´
ıo Suaza; 4, Santa Marta
(type locality); 5, Popaya
46(906)—Mustela felipei 13
are large. The mesopterygoid fossa is wide (.16%of the
zygomatic breadth) with almost parallel sides (Izor and de la
and the dentition is specialized for a carnivore diet. Upper
and lower incisors and canines are typical for the genus.
The postcanine teeth are in contact; the lingual cingula are
developed. P2 is low-cusped with a single root posterior to
the apex near its anterior margin. In ventral view, P3 is
ellipsoid, with the labial margin convex; its anterior part is
reduced like that of P2, but to a lesser degree. The
protocone and parastyle of P4 form an acute angle. The
M1 protocone is large with prominent anterior and
posterior cingula (with rectangular appearance to the
lingual side). The mandibular teeth present the following
characteristics. The p2 is reduced (equal in size to m2). The
p3 and p4 are reduced anteriorly. The protocone of p4 is
convex in lateral view. The m1 and m2 are well developed
(Izor and de la Torre 1978).
The penis is slender for most of its length; it increases
greatly in diameter proximal to the distal dorsal curve. The
penis has partly erectile tissue at its distal end that lies in 2
asymmetrically arranged lateral masses. A small and discrete
structure, possibly with a secretory role, is located covering
the urethra on the ventral side of the shaft. Distally, the
penis shows the 3-pointed structure of the baculum, partially
obscured and ﬁlled in by soft tissue (Izor and de la Torre
Little is known of the habitat preferences of Mustela
felipei apart from the places where the recorded specimens
have been found. One specimen was collected in the upper
Suaza River valley, Colombia, in an area with stretches of
torrential currents interrupted by quiet pools (Schreiber et
al. 1989). Another specimen was captured alive in a
Sherman trap (80 by 90 by 230 mm; H. B. Sherman Traps,
Inc., Tallahassee, Florida) baited with a mixture of cracked
corn with canned sardines in oil; the trap was located in
mixed grass with low herbaceous vegetation in Alto
´pagos, Colombia (Alberico 1994).
Its naked foot soles with extensive interdigital webbing
(Fig. 2) and riparian distribution suggest that M. felipei is
adapted for aquatic environments (Izor and de la Torre
1978). Nevertheless, such feet also may be useful for moving
over the soils of tropical cloud forest, which are generally
near saturation, given near-daily rains and high humidity
In one specimen (the holotype), the frontal sinuses show
bilateral lesions typical of nematode infestation but this
region of the skull does not appear distorted (Izor and de la
Phylogenetic analysis using sequences of the mitochon-
drial cytochrome-bgene indicates that Mustela felipei is the
sister species of M. africana, with a divergence time from M.
frenata estimated at about 3–4 310
years ago. These 3
species plus Neovison vison (American mink) comprise a
distinct New World lineage, which separated from 2
Southeastern Asia species after this group diverged from a
large Eurasian lineage (Harding and Smith 2009). The
cytochrome-bsequence of M. felipei was obtained from the
paratype (FMNH 86745) deposited at the Field Museum of
Natural History, Chicago.
Mustela felipei may be the rarest carnivore of South
America (Schreiber et al. 1989). Globally, it is considered
‘‘Vulnerable’’ by the International Union for Conservation
of Nature and Natural Resources (Emmons and Helgen
2008). In Colombia, it is listed as ‘‘Endangered’’ (Mesa-
´lez 2006; Ministerio de Ambiente, Vivienda y
Desarrollo Territorial [MAVDT] 2010), although in Ecua-
dor it is listed as ‘‘Data Deﬁcient’’ (Tirira and Gonza
Maya 2009). Previous assessments for Ecuador included the
species in ‘‘Critically Endangered’’ based on the small area
of occupancy in a strongly fragmented habitat and a severe
population decline (Tirira 2001).
The species has been collected in Cueva de los
Guacharos Natural National Park and near Purace Natural
National Park in Colombia (Ram´
ırez-Chaves and Mantilla-
Meluk 2009). In Ecuador, it has not been reported from any
protected area (Tirira and Gonza
´lez-Maya 2009). The
potential distribution of M. felipei may include 5–9
protected areas in Colombia and 14 in Ecuador (Burneo et
al. 2009; Ram´
ırez-Chaves and Mantilla-Meluk 2009). The
most recent record of M. felipei was in 1988, and subsequent
ﬁeldwork in 6 localities in Colombia (2 adjacent to localities
where the species had been previously collected) failed to
trap the species (Fawcett et al. 1996).
HERC thanks B. Ram´
ırez Padilla, V. Weisbecker, and
the University of Queensland Centennial and International
scholarships (UQCent and UQI) for their support. R. A.
Powell and 2 anonymous reviewers made comments and
suggestions that improved the manuscript.
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