Meles leucurusAsian badger

Geographic Range

Asian badgers (Meles leucurus) range widely throughout the temperate regions of eastern Europe and Asia. Their range extends from eastern Russia to China and is bordered in the south by the Himalayas. The western boundary of their range is the Ural-Volga region of Russia, along which, they are sympatric with European badgers (Meles meles). (Gasilin and Kosintsev, 2010; Tashima, et al., 2011; Tate, 1947)

Habitat

Asian badgers occupy a diverse range of habitats. They are found in deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests, as well as mountainous regions, steppes, semi-deserts, and tundra. In forested areas they often dig burrows on the south-facing slopes of ravines, where the snow melts earlier. They prefer areas with well-drained soil. In steppe regions they often occupy gullies. They may burrow in the banks of coastal lakes, as well as near the bottom of sand dunes. They always stay near a water source. In the Caucasus Mountains, they range vertically from sea level to the alpine meadows. (Heptner and Naumov, 1967; Long and Killingley, 1983; Neal and Cheeseman, 1996; Ognev, 1962)

  • Range elevation
    Sea level to 3000 m
    to 9842.52 ft

Physical Description

Asian badgers have a stocky, somewhat wedge-shaped body. Their limbs are short, with strong elongated claws (22 to 26 mm) that are well-adapted for digging. The average size and mass of Asian badgers varies regionally. Those found in Siberia are larger than those from the far-Eastern part of the range. Their mass also varies throughout the year, peaking in the fall before hibernation. Males are generally larger, but there is variation in the degree of sexual dimorphism between different populations. (Abramov and Puzachenko, 2005; Long and Killingley, 1983; Neal and Cheeseman, 1996; Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009)

The pelage of Asian badgers is dense and coarse. They are generally grayish-silver with a white face and dark brown or black stripes running over each eye. They exhibit a range of regional pelage coloration. Specimens from Mongolia have a relatively lighter coat, while those from the Amur region are particularly dark in color. In addition, mountain inhabitants are almost always darker than those of the plains. (Heptner and Naumov, 1967; Long and Killingley, 1983; Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    3.5 to 9 kg
    7.71 to 19.82 lb
  • Range length
    49.5 to 70 cm
    19.49 to 27.56 in

Reproduction

Asian badgers can mate year-round and fertilization can occur at any time, but cubs are generally only born between mid-January and mid-March. This is achieved through delayed implantation. (Long and Killingley, 1983; Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Badgers of the genus Meles give birth once per year, usually between mid-January and mid-March. Mating occurs primarily in the spring. Mating and fertilization may occur throughout the year, but implantation is delayed. There is no data available specific to M. leucurus. (Long and Killingley, 1983; Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 5
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    13 to 14 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    12 to 15 months

Badgers of genus Meles show alloparental behavior, where related individuals help raise the young. These relatives may chase the young into the den when they are threatened, or chase away predators. There is no data available for M. leucurus, specifically. (Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Lifespan/Longevity

There is no data available on the lifespan of M. leucurus in the wild or in captivity. Meles meles, a close relative, may reach 15 years in the wild; however, it is fairly unusual for individuals to exceed 10 years. The oldest known captive M. meles was 19 1/2 years. (Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Behavior

Asian badgers are primarily nocturnal. They can be fairly gregarious, living in communal setts (underground burrows) with multiple tunnels and entrances. In areas of limited food availability, the badgers are often solitary. (Heptner and Naumov, 1967; Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009)

Asian badgers often hibernate in family groups, adults share dens with cubs born during the previous year. Yearlings and older single badgers occupy individual dens. (Ognev, 1962)

Home Range

There is little data available for M. leucurus; however, it is most active within approximately 400 to 500 m of its den. (Ognev, 1962)

Communication and Perception

Badgers of the genus Meles have a relatively high count of rod to cone cells. In addition, they have a tapetum which reflects light back through the retina. These features aid in night vision. The eyes of Meles badgers are relatively small for nocturnal mammals. This indicates that eyesight may be of less importance to the animal than other senses. Meles badgers have an extremely well developed sense of smell. Scroll bones in the nasal cavity provide a large surface area for sensory epithelia. (Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Little is known about hearing in Meles badgers. They produce a large variety of noises covering a wide range of frequencies. These noises may be useful in communication. (Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Food Habits

Asian badgers are omnivorous and consume a wide variety of foods, including earthworms, insects, mammals, reptiles, birds, frogs, mollusks, berries, pine nuts, and other plant material. Regional badger diet is based largely on availability. Throughout much of its range, earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) are the most common food source. Insects make up the majority of the Asian badger's diet in more arid regions, such as Mongolia. A population on Bol’shoi Chukhtinskii Island in Russia may subsist largely on pine nuts. They have also been known to prey on young livestock. (Heptner and Naumov, 1967; Long and Killingley, 1983; Murdoch and Buyandelger, 2010; Neal and Cheeseman, 1996; Ognev, 1962; Zagainova and Markov, 2011)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • eggs
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

Asian badger cubs may be preyed upon by lynxes, wolves, and wolverines, where their ranges overlap. Adult badgers are not known to have predators. (Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Ecosystem Roles

Members of genus Meles are commonly parasitized by fleas (Paraceras melis), lice (Trichodectes melis), and ticks (Ixodes), and to a lesser degree, mites. No specific information is available for M. leucurus. (Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Asian badger's hair is used for various types of brushes. Their hide is used to make rugs and leatherwork. (Domingo-Roura, et al., 2006; Ognev, 1962)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is evidence of Asian badgers preying upon livestock, calves and foals. They are also attracted to grapes in vineyards, and may damage fences to access them. (Ognev, 1962)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Current information on population trends is not available for M. leucurus.

Contributors

Corey Oldham (author), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

delayed implantation

in mammals, a condition in which a fertilized egg reaches the uterus but delays its implantation in the uterine lining, sometimes for several months.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

tundra

A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Abramov, A., A. Puzachenko. 2005. Sexual dimorphism of craniological characters in Eurasian badgers, Meles ssp. (Carnivora, Mustelidae). Zoolischer Anzeiger, 244: 11-29.

Domingo-Roura, X., J. Marmi, A. Ferrando, F. Lopez-Giraldez, D. MacDonald, H. Jansman. 2006. Badger hair in shaving brushes comes from protected Eurasian badgers. Biological Conservation, 128: 425-430.

Gasilin, V., P. Kosintsev. 2010. Replacement of the European Badger (Meles meles L., 1758) by the Asian Badger (Meles leucurus Hodgeson, 1847) at the Boundary between Europe and Asia in the Holocene Epoch. Doklady Biological Sciences, 432: 227-229.

Heptner, V., N. Naumov. 1967. Mammals of the Soviet Union. Moscow: Vysshaya Shkola Publishers.

Long, C., C. Killingley. 1983. The Badgers of the World. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas.

Murdoch, J., S. Buyandelger. 2010. An account of badger diet in an arid steppe region of Mongolia. Journal of Arid Environments, 74: 1348-1350.

Neal, E., C. Cheeseman. 1996. Badgers. London: T & AD Poyser Ltd.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Ognev, S. 1962. Mammals of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Jerusalem: Published by the National Science Foundation, Washington D.C., by the Israel Program for Scientific Translations.

Tashima, S., Y. Kaneko, T. Anezaki, M. Baba, S. Yachimori, A. Abramov, A. Saveljev, R. Masuda. 2011. Phylogeographic Sympatry and Isolation of the Eurasian Badgers (Meles, Mustelidae, Carnivora): Implications for an Alternative Analysis Using Maternally as well as Paternally Inherited Genes. Zoological Science, 28: 293-303.

Tate, G. 1947. Mammals of Eastern Asia. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Wilson, D., R. Mittermeier. 2009. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Zagainova, O., N. Markov. 2011. The Diet of Asian Badger, Meles leucurus Hodgeson, 1847, in Samarovskii Chugas Nature Park, Western Siberia. Russian Journal of Ecology, 42: 414-420.