Late- and Post-Glacial history of the Mustelidae in Europe


Robert Sommer. E-mail:


1. Analyses of the subfossil records of mustelid species in Europe indicate specific differences in the pattern of temporal and spatial recolonization of central Europe after the maximum glaciation of the last glacial period.

2. For Meles meles, Martes martes and (with some reservations) Mustela putorius it can be seen that the populations were separated in several glacial refugia during the maximum glaciation of the Weichselian. In contrast, the European population of Lutra lutra was restricted to a single glacial refuge, which had not been clearly localized until now.

3. Besides the known glacial refugia of the Iberian Peninsula, Italian Peninsula and the Balkans, there is evidence of possible additional glacial refugia for mustelids near the Carpathians, in western Moldova and in the northern Pontic region.

4.Gulo gulo, Mustela nivalis, and Mustela erminea show adaptations for survival in Pleistocene conditions, but they were historically also distributed in the warmer areas of southern Europe.

5. Among the more thermophilic mustelid species, Mustela putorius is likely to have been the earliest immigrant following the maximum glaciation. Meles meles has been recorded in comparably early times and also seems to be relatively tolerant of climatic extremes. It is clear that Martes martes had already arrived in central Europe during the Allerød, in connection with the recolonization by birch and pine woods. Lutra lutra, by contrast, seems to have been an absolute Holocene immigrant.