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Published on Jan 5, 2009
The Ermine is a member of the family Mustelidae, which also includes other weasels, mink, otters, ferret, badgers, polecats, the wolverine, martens, the tayra, the fisher and in some taxonomical classifications skunks. This is one of the most species-rich families in order Carnivora. The Ermine moves in a sinuous manner when pursuing its prey extremely quick over the ground considering its small size, and is also a strong swimmer that is able to colonize offshore islands. Although it inhabits northern latitudes, the Ermine is built long and thin, leading to an increased surface area-to-volume ratio and increased dissipation of heat from its body. The advantage of this shape is that it is one of the few species able to follow burrowing animals into their own homes. It partly compensates for this shape by having short legs, small ears, a fast metabolism and, in winter, thick fur. Ermines may grow up to 30 cm long, with males much larger than the females. In most areas it coexists with the weasel (Mustela nivalis, also known as the Least Weasel), the smallest member of order Carnivora. Where the weasel is absent the Ermine is smaller (~70 g).