Congratulations to thebakingzoologist for being the first to correctly ID Friday’s Freak of the Week as the skull of a stoat — extra credit bonus points to acerrubrum for throwing out the scientific name (Mustela erminea)! The stoat is a mustelid of many common names, also known as the short-tailed weasel, or ermine. A few of you also guessed ferret, which would be somewhat correct as well; ferrets are in the same genus, Mustela, the weasels. amischiefofmice guessed the least weasel, which is a smaller cousin of the short-tailed weasel and is actually the smallest member of the order Carnivora — they are deserving of their own post, which I will hopefully write soon enough!
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the mustelids, and I wrote a post about some of the genera back in July and another post about martens in May. Here’s a list of the species from today from largest to smallest:
- Wolverine (Gulo gulo) — Included to indicate size disparity
- Steppe polecat, China (Mustela eversmanni)
- American mink (formerly Mustela vison, now in genus Neovison)
- Mountain weasel (Mustela altaica)
- Long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata)
- Subspecies of ermine, (Mustela erminea invicta)
- Stoat/ermine/short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea)
- Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) — Included to indicate scale.
I included three study skin examples to show the differences in seasonal pelages — this is a great indicator for which time of year a specimen was collected. The white was obviously collected in the winter, the brown in the summer/fall, and the center is an example of a transitionary period. If this color change is used for camouflage, why do you think the stoat retains the black tip on its tail during the white winter months?