Top 10 UK Mammals

Top 10s

Mammals are often the main driver for conservation campaigns. You always see things like lions, tigers, pandas and elephants as the poster animals for organisations like the WWF. Well, if you didn’t know the UK has some pretty incredible mammals of its own. Here are ten of my favourites that are all native to the UK!

1 – Grey Seal – Halichoerus grypus

Grey seals are found all over the UK. They feed on all kinds of fish and live in large colonies. In the past the seals were once hunted almost to the point of extinction, particularly in the US. However now in the UK grey seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 however this does not apply in Northern Ireland. The picture below is of the seals in Stiffkey in Norfolk which I got to see as part of my masters degree!

Photo by Duncan Harris

2 – Greater Horseshoe Bat – Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

This fantastic bat species can be found across the UK. They can often be seen foraging in woodlands and pastureland and nest in underground caves. The best time to see most bats is in the summer around dusk. These bats have been in decline due to fragmentation of their habitats but there has been a massive effort to conserve the species and populations have been stabilizing in the UK.

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Photo by Prof. emeritus Hans Schneider

3 – European Otter – Lutra lutra

One of the most adorable mammals in the UK is the otter. They are found around many different kinds of aquatic habitat and feed on mostly fish, eels and crayfish. They were once only found in Scotland but with conservation of water systems signs of otters have been found throughout the UK.

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Photo by Bernard Landgraf

4 – European Badger – Meles meles

This fantastic mammal is instantly recognisable. Badgers are found across the UK in countryside and woodlands. They are a nocturnal species that feed on a wide range of animal and plant matter but their favourite is earthworms. They live in family groups of four to seven individuals and live in setts underground. They are fully protected by the law but recently periodic culls have been allowed in the aim to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

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Photo from Pixabay

5 – Wood Mouse – Apodemus sylvaticus

Otherwise known as the long-tailed field mouse or common field mouse, these guys are undeniably adorable. They live in woodlands and farmland. They have the perfect teeth to dig into all kinds of different seeds. Their upper front teeth have a smooth inner surface which distinguishes them from the house mouse.

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Photo by Hans Hillewaert

6 – Hazel Dormouse  – Muscardinus avellanarius

Now although all the mammals on this list are great I think this little mouse is my ultimate favourite! The Hazel Dormouse is the only species in this genus and is found in the south of England. It is also the only dormouse that is native to the UK. Dormice live predominantly in the trees and is found in hedgerows, deciduous woodland and farmland. It feeds on flowers, insects, seeds and fruits.

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Photo by Haruta Ovidiu

7 – European Hedgehog – Erinaceus europaeus

This mammal is distinctive feature of the UK countryside. It has been shown that hedgehogs thrive in many man-made habitats such as gardens, orchards and farmland. These prickly guests love it if you leave a section of your garden to grow a bit wild!

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Photo by Nicolas Zea P.

8 – Common Pipistrelle Bat – Pipistrellus pipistrellus

This bat is found all over the world but does make it’s home in the UK. They live in colonies of around 20-50 individuals in the summer and in the winter they go it alone or in small groups. It forages in a variety of habitats including open woodland and woodland edges, Mediterranean shrubland, semi-desert, farmland, rural gardens and urban areas. It feeds on small moths and flies.

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Photo by Evgeniy Yakhontov

9 – Eurasian Water Vole – Neomys fodiens

This water vole is quite large growing up to 10cm long. This species is semi-aquatic with water repelling fur. It occurs in a wide variety of wetland habitats, both freshwater and coastal, including lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, bogs, damp grasslands, humid woodlands, sea shores and intertidal wetlands. It is the most aquatic of all European shrews. It hunts on land and in water for invertebrates, including crustaceans, and occasionally takes small fish and amphibians.

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10 – Eurasian Beaver – Castor fiber

The beaver was once a UK mammal species but in the 20th Century it was hunted to extinction. However there have been several projects to reintroduce the Beaver! Beavers are adapted for a semi-aquatic life, using a variety of freshwater systems, including rivers, streams, irrigation ditches, lakes, and swamps. They generally prefer freshwater habitats surrounded by woodland, but may occur in agricultural land.

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Photo by Tomasz Chmielewski

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little list, there are so many mammals that didn’t make the list so there might be a part two! Send me a cheeky tweet or a comment with your favourite mammal!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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What makes something native?

Miscellaneous

In conservation and biology in general there is a lot of talk over whether a species is native. This can often be quite a divisive issue because when species are not native they can often be removed or not be a part of policy making. This then means that when conservation plans are put into place a decision must be made as to whether a species is native or not.

So how do you decide whether something is in fact native?

A seemingly easy way of doing this is whether a species has been living in a location for a long time. However due to the wonderful nature of the world trying to pick a starting point in time and figure out what was living there can be a tricky task. For example certain plant species have always been in the UK such as Oak trees. They are therefore classed as native. Other plant species have been brought into the UK. This can happen for lots of different reasons whether its because the plant has a medical property that humans can use or it could be that they are just pretty. Many of these species have a specific few years when they were brought in. One example of this is Rhododendron ponticum which was brought in as an ornamental plant from Spain in 1763. Its since become an invasive species and out competes a lot of native species and such its regarded as a non-native species. However some research suggests that this species was growing in the UK before the last ice age. Obviously this was a long time ago but this does then pose the question of is it a native species as it once was many years a go.

It is a complicated question that I couldn’t answer in a simple blog post. However, most native species are defined as species that originated in their location naturally and without the involvement of human activity or intervention. This definition works for the majority of cases but should be called into question every once in a while!

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