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versión On-line ISSN 2007-3364


CSORBA, Gábor et al. How can scientific researches change conservation priorities? A review of decade-long research on blind mole-rats (Rodentia: Spalacinae) in the Carpathian Basin. Therya [online]. 2015, vol.6, n.1, pp.103-121. ISSN 2007-3364.


From time to time, it could be useful to revise and re-assess the results of long-term programs in conservation and research. This paper overviews an ongoing research program that started 10 years ago in Central Europe and focuses on blind mole-rats, a scarcely investigated and consequently enigmatic group of rodents.


Systematics and Taxonomy. By means of molecular biological methods targeting the sequences of mitochondrial genes we conclude that five species of blind mole-rats, representatives of genera Spalax and Nannospalax, occur in the Carpathian Basin. Based on our present knowledge they are the only terrestrial vertebrate species endemic to the region.

Mapping of distributions. As recently as one hundred years ago blind mole-rats were widespread and common all over the Carpathian Basin. In the last decade, all the regions in Hungary, the Transylvanian Basin and Vojvodina where previous genuine records were known, were checked systematically. Maps and aerial photography provided information on the exact location of habitat patches that are supposed to be suitable for blind mole-rats even today. In recent years (from 2008 onwards) the survey area was extended to all locations where residents reported on the occurrence of mole-rats.

Threatening factors. The main cause of population decline is agricultural development which brought about significant changes in cultivation and land use. The following specific threatening factors were defined: cultivation, tree plantations, natural reafforestation, invasive plants, overgrazing, site developement, genetic bottlenecks, extreme weather conditions, and inadequate legal protection.

Risk assessment. Red List categories for all species of Carpathian Basin blind mole-rats were assessed according to the 2001 criteria. Accordingly, one species is proposed to be ranked as Vulnerable, two as Endangered, one as Critically Endangered, and one as Data Deficient (probably extinct).


Results from molecular biological and systematic studies, distribution mapping and determination of threatening factors, have had profound effects on practical conservation. These include action plans, wide international co-operations, establishment of a new protected area, updated protected species' list, species-level risk assessment, and the first-ever relocation program of a subterranean mammal.

Palabras llave : Nannospalax; protected species; recent distribution; risk assessment; Spalacinae; Spalax; threatening factors.

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