Japanese marten

The Japanese marten (Martes melampus) is a mammal in the marten genus most closely related to the sable. It is 0.5 m (1.5 ft) in length typically, not counting a 20-cm-long tail (7.9 in), and between 1,000 and 1,500 grams (2.2 and 3.3 lb) in weight. Males are generally larger than females. The pelage varies in color from dark brown to dull yellow with a cream-colored throat.[4]

Both males and females are territorial, and the size of each individual's territory depending on food availability. The Japanese marten is omnivorous, preferring meat from fish, frogs, and small birds and mammals, but consuming insects, fruit, and seeds when necessary.[4]

The two confirmed subspecies of Japanese marten are:

It has been recorded in the southern Korean Peninsula, but no locality details prove a wild origin and no native population has been confirmed.

Japanese marten
Martes melampus-1
Scientific classification
M. melampus
Binomial name
Martes melampus
(Wagner, 1841)
Japanese Marten area
Japanese marten range

Reproduction and lifecycle

The Japanese martens' breeding season occurs between March and the middle of May. They usually produce one offspring; however, they can have up to five kits per mating season. The offspring are born blind and deaf. As a mammal, the female produces milk for her young offspring, but by 3–4 months of age, the kits are able to hunt and soon leave their mother. Sexual maturity occurs between 1 and 2 years old. Average lifespan in the wild is unknown, although a specimen in captivity lived for a little more than 12 years.

After reaching maturity, young martens often try to establish their territory. They mark their territory with scent marking.[4]


Japanese martens live in boreal forests in much of Japan's mainland. In the winter, martens tend to go to the forests where they can get the most prey. They tend to choose well-established forests because of the ways the creatures have specialized and due to their long lifespan. As such, martens likely are valuable in assessing the health of the forest. However, in the summer, their habitat and diet become much more generalized, allowing them to live in a much more varied environment.[6]

Benefits to the environment

Japanese Marten
Japanese marten

One of the biggest roles martens play in the environment is seed dispersal. Many fleshy fruits rely on birds and bats to disperse their seeds; however, in more northern climates, the numbers of these species decrease. With the decrease of these species also comes a decrease in seed dispersal. In these areas, carnivores with omnivorous diets, like the Japanese marten, can become the vector of dispersal. These carnivores prove to be good dispersal mechanisms because they often have large home ranges leading to dispersal farther from the parent. Furthermore, since the carnivores are usually larger than birds or bats, the can carry and disperse larger seeds. Around 62% of the Japanese martens' feces contained one or more seeds.[7]

Effects on humans

Japanese martens have both positive and negative impacts on human activities in their habitats. As a positive, the martens prey on Japanese hares (Lepus brachyurus), which lower the quality of trees by their browsing. However, their prey also can include many insects which aid agriculture.[4]

Threats and conservation efforts

The biggest threat to the Japanese marten is the logging industry, which targets its preferred habitat of well-established forests. The industry often clear cuts forests quickly destroying the creatures habitat without allowing it to recover. This practice also causes insularization of marten populations, in turn causing changes in foraging behaviors and the decrease of the genetic pool.[6] Furthermore, pine plantations in their ecosystems do not contain important food for the martens.[4]

Steps have been taken to try to conserve the martens. The most common are regulations on trapping.[6] The species has been named as a Natural Monument Species in Japan in 1971, calling for attention to the species' vulnerability. The species also has been given legal protection on the Tsushima Islands.[4]


In the Iga region, Mie Prefecture, is the saying, "the fox has seven disguises, the tanuki has eight, and the marten has nine," and a legend relates how the marten has greater ability in shapeshifting than the fox (kitsune) or tanuki. In the Akita Prefecture and the Ishikawa Prefecture, if a marten crosses in front of someone, it is said to be an omen for bad luck (the weasel has the same kind of legend), and in the Hiroshima Prefecture, if one kills a marten, one is said to soon encounter a fire. In the Fukushima Prefecture, they are also called heko, fuchikari, komono, and haya, and they are said to be those who have died in avalanches in disguise.[8]

In the collection of yōkai depictions, the Gazu Hyakki Yagyō by Sekien Toriyama, they were depicted under the title "鼬," but this was read not as "itachi" but rather "ten",[9] and "ten" are weasels that have reached several years of age and became yōkai that have acquired supernatural powers.[10] In the depiction, several martens have gathered together above a ladder and created a column of fire, and one fear about them was that if martens that have gathered together in this form appear next to a house, the house would catch on fire.[11]


  1. ^ Abramov, A. & Wozencraft, C. (2008). "Martes melampus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
  2. ^ Nascimento, F. O. do (2014). "On the correct name for some subfamilies of Mustelidae (Mammalia, Carnivora)". Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia (São Paulo). 54 (21): 307–313. doi:10.1590/0031-1049.2014.54.21.
  3. ^ Law, C. J.; Slater, G. J.; Mehta, R. S. (2018-01-01). "Lineage Diversity and Size Disparity in Musteloidea: Testing Patterns of Adaptive Radiation Using Molecular and Fossil-Based Methods". Systematic Biology. 67 (1): 127–144. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syx047.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Martes melampus (Japanese marten)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  5. ^ "Martes melampus (Japanese Marten, Tsushima Island Marten)". www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  6. ^ a b c Buskirk, Steven (September 1992). "Conserving Circumboreal Forests for Martens and Fishers". Conservation Biology. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1992.06030318.x.
  7. ^ Otani, Tatsuya (2002). "Seed dispersal by Japanese marten Martes melampus in the subalpine shrubland of northern Japan". Ecological Research. 17: 29–38. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1703.2002.00460.x.
  8. ^ 村上健司 編著 『妖怪事典』 毎日新聞社、2000年、230頁。ISBN 978-4-6203-1428-0。
  9. ^ 高田衛 監修 稲田篤信・田中直日編 『鳥山石燕 画図百鬼夜行』 国書刊行会、1992年、50頁。ISBN 978-4-336-03386-4。
  10. ^ 少年社・中村友紀夫・武田えり子編 『妖怪の本 異界の闇に蠢く百鬼夜行の伝説』 学習研究社〈New sight mook〉、1999年、123頁。ISBN 978-4-05-602048-9。
  11. ^ 多田克己 『幻想世界の住人たち IV 日本編』 新紀元社、1990年、249頁。ISBN 978-4-9151-4644-2。

Further reading

Asiatic linsang

The Asiatic linsang (Prionodon) is a genus comprising two species native to Southeast Asia: the banded linsang (Prionodon linsang) and the spotted linsang (Prionodon pardicolor). Prionodon is considered a sister taxon of the Felidae.


Catopuma is a genus containing two Asian small wild cat species, the bay cat (C. badia) and the Asian golden cat (C. temminckii).

Both are typically reddish brown in colour, with darker markings on the head. They inhabit forested environments in Southeast Asia. The bay cat is restricted to the island of Borneo. Originally thought to be two subspecies of the same animal, recent genetic analysis has confirmed they are, indeed, separate species.The two species diverged from one another 4.9-5.3 million years ago, long before Borneo separated from the neighboring islands. Their closest living relative is the marbled cat, from which the common ancestor of the genus Catopuma diverged around 9.4 million years ago.


Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.

Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)

Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)

Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)

Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)

Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis)


Galerella is a genus of the mongoose family (Herpestidae) native to Africa and commonly called the slender mongooses.There are four or five species in this genus, with more than 30 subspecies.

Four of the species have long been established:

A recent addition is the black mongoose, Galerella nigrata, which now is considered a separate species by many scientists, following genetic analysis. It was previously seen as a variant of Galerella sanguinea.


Guloninae is a subfamily of the mammal family Mustelidae distributed across Eurasia and the Americas. It includes martens and the fisher, tayra and wolverine. These genera were formerly included within a paraphyletic definition of the mustelid subfamily Mustelinae.

Most gulonine species are arboreal to a degree. Some of the fashion furs come from this subfamily, i.e. sable, marten.


Hitogitsune or ninko (人狐) is a type of spirit possession told about in legends of the Chūgoku region of western Japan.

Indian brown mongoose

The Indian brown mongoose (Herpestes fuscus) looks similar to the short-tailed mongoose from Southeast Asia and is sometimes believed to be only a subspecies of this latter. The Indian brown mongoose is found in southwest India and Sri Lanka.


Lontra is a genus of otters from the Americas.


Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.


The martens constitute the genus Martes within the subfamily Guloninae, in the family Mustelidae. Martens are slender, agile animals, adapted to living in taigas, and are found in coniferous and northern deciduous forests across the Northern Hemisphere. They have bushy tails and large paws with partially retractible claws. The fur varies from yellowish to dark brown, depending on the species, and, in many cases, is valued by fur trappers.


The Mustelidae (; from Latin mustela, weasel) are a family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, mink, and wolverines, among others. Mustelids are diverse and the largest family in the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia. Mustelidae comprises about 56-60 species across eight subfamilies.


Mustelinae is a subfamily of family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, ferrets amd minks.It was formerly defined in a paraphyletic manner to also include wolverines, martens, and many other mustelids, to the exclusion of the otters (Lutrinae).

Narrow-striped mongoose

The narrow-striped mongoose (Mungotictis decemlineata) is a member of the family Eupleridae, subfamily Galidiinae and endemic to Madagascar. It inhabits the Madagascar dry deciduous forests of western and southwestern Madagascar, where it lives from sea level to about 125 m (410 ft) between the Tsiribihina and Mangoky rivers. In Malagasy it is called bokiboky (pronounced "Boo-ky Boo-ky").


Nyctereutes is an Old World genus of the family Canidae, consisting of just one living species, the raccoon dog of East Asia. Nyctereutes appeared about 9.0 million years ago (Mya), with all but one species becoming extinct before the Pleistocene.

Native to East Asia, the raccoon dog has been intensively bred for fur in Europe and especially in Russia during the twentieth century. Specimens have escaped or have been introduced to increase production and formed populations in Eastern Europe. It is currently expanding rapidly in the rest of Europe, where its presence is undesirable because it is considered to be a harmful and invasive species.


The Paradoxurinae are a subfamily of the viverrids that was denominated and first described by John Edward Gray in 1864.Pocock subordinated the oriental genera Paradoxurus, Paguma and Arctictis to this subfamily.


Paradoxurus is a genus within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. As of 2005, this genus was defined as comprising three species native to Southeast Asia:

the Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)

the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)

the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.

Patagonian weasel

The Patagonian weasel (Lyncodon patagonicus) is a small mustelid that is the only member of the genus Lyncodon. Its geographic range is the Pampas of western Argentina and sections of Chile. An early mention of the animal is in the Journal of Syms Covington, who sailed with Charles Darwin on his epic voyage aboard HMS Beagle.

Extant Carnivora species
Legendary Creatures

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