European rodent on the edge: status and distribution of the Vojvodina blind mole rat
1 Department of Systematic Zoology and Ecology, Eötvös Loránd University, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, Budapest, H-1117, Hungary
2 Kiskunság National Park Directorate, Lisz Ferenc u. 19, Kecskemét, H-6000, Hungary
3 Hungarian Natural History Museum, Baross u. 13, Budapest, H-1088, Hungary
4 Research Institute for Animal Breeding and Nutrition, Méhészet 1, Gödöllő, H-2100, Hungary
5 Department in Novi Sad, Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia, Radnicka 20a, Novi Sad, 21000, Serbia
SpringerPlus 2013, 2:2 doi:10.1186/2193-1801-2-2Published: 4 January 2013
Recent research of blind mole rats of the species complex Nannospalax (superspecies leucodon) identified a small and fragmented population of these rodents on both sides of the Hungarian-Serbian border. Cytogenetic investigations proved that this population karyologically identical with the Vojvodina blind mole rat described earlier as Nannospalax (leucodon) montanosyrmiensis. Based on cytochrome b gene sequences obtained from three specimens originating from separate locations, these blind mole rats form a discrete phylogenetic clade which, with a difference of about 10%, is well separated from other blind mole rat taxa inhabiting the Carpathian Basin. The taxon has only two extant populations that are 150 km apart from each other. The combined occupied area is estimated to be less than 10 km2, and the total estimated number of individuals is less than 300. These two remaining populations are heavily fragmented and under imminent threat by the establishment of tree plantations, small-scale and agro-industrial farms and land development. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that 80% of the individuals inhabit unprotected areas. A study of the landscape history of the wider area surrounding one of the populations - based on military maps spanning over the last 200 years - has shown a drastic decrease in the extent and quality of potential habitats. Based on our present knowledge, the Vojvodina blind mole rat is one of the most seriously threatened, rarest mammal in Europe, the remaining population of which can be wiped out within years unless immediate conservation action is taken.