2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Mammals

Long-tailed Weasel
Long-tailed Weasel
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Subfamily: Mustelinae
Genus: Mustela
Linnaeus, 1758

Mustela africana
Mustela altaica
Mustela erminea
Mustela eversmannii
Mustela felipei
Mustela frenata
Mustela kathiah
Mustela lutreola
Mustela lutreolina
Mustela nigripes
Mustela nivalis
Mustela nudipes
Mustela putorius
Mustela sibirica
Mustela strigidorsa
Mustela vison

Weasels are mammals in the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. Originally, the name "weasel" was applied to one species of the genus, the European form of the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis). Early literary references to weasels, for example their common appearances in fables, refer to this species rather than to the genus as a whole.

Weasels vary in length from 15 to 35 centimeters (6 to 14 inches), and usually have a light brown upper coat, white belly and black fur at the tip of the tail; in many species, populations living at high latitudes moult to a white coat with black fur at the tip of the tail in winter. They have long slender bodies, which enable them to follow their prey into burrows. Their tails are typically almost as long as the rest of their bodies. As is typical of small carnivores, weasels have a reputation for cleverness and guile.

Most weasels feed on small mammals, and in former times were considered vermin since some species took poultry from farms, or rabbits from commercial warrens. Some species of weasel have been reported to perform a "hypnotic dance" in front of prey, which appears to mesmerize it. In folklore at least, this behaviour is particularly associated with the stoat.

Of the 16 extant species currently classified in the genus Mustela, only 10 have "weasel" in their common name. Among those that do not are the stoat, the two species of mink, and the polecats or ferrets.

Species of weasel

  • Subgenus Grammogale
    • Tropical Weasel, Mustela africana
    • Colombian Weasel, Mustela felipei
  • Subgenus Lutreola
    • European Mink, Mustela lutreola
    • Indonesian Mountain Weasel, Mustela lutreolina
    • Malayan Weasel, Mustela nudipes
    • Siberian Weasel, Mustela sibirica
    • Black-striped Weasel, Mustela strigidorsa
  • Subgenus Mustela
    • Mountain Weasel, Mustela altaica
    • Stoat, Mustela erminea
    • Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata
    • Yellow-bellied Weasel, Mustela kathiah
    • Least Weasel, Mustela nivalis
  • Subgenus Putorius
    • Steppe Polecat, Mustela eversmannii
    • Black-footed Ferret, Mustela nigripes
    • European Polecat, Mustela putorius (includes the domestic ferret)
  • Subgenus Vison
    • Sea Mink, Mustela macrodon ( extinct in 1894)
    • American Mink, Mustela vison
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