Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Japanese Badger

Meles anakuma
Why it's that day of the year again. Happy Badger day! (We actually could go for another eight years before running out of Badgers to talk about...)

Last year we talked about the internet-famous Honey Badger, and the year before we learned about my beloved American Badger, but this year we'll be discussing one of the lesser known Badgers, the Japanese Badger!

Japanese Badgers belong to a different subfamily from the previously featured Badgers, and are close relatives of the yet-to-be-discussed European and Asian Badgers. As you can probably guess, they are endemic to Japan, and their island dwelling lifestyle has left them slightly smaller than their continental cousins. It is hypothesized that their ancestors entered Japan from the Korean Peninsula, which would explain why the species has not been found on the northernmost island, Hokkaido.

You can identify the Japanese Badger by their grey-brown hair and chocolate colored facial stripes that are similar to those found in the European and Asian Badgers, but are a bit less pronounced. They have tiny ears, short tails, and large, powerful feet with non-retractable claws for digging expertise.

One thing I found rather interesting is that Japanese Badgers have a polygynandrous breeding system. This means that both the males and the females will mate with multiple partners throughout the year. Unlike their close European cousins, they do not even form pair bonds to rear the offspring-- females do that duty alone. They actually will mate at all times of the year, but the females are luckily able to delay implantation so that her cubs are only born during the favorable spring season. Another fun fact? Female offspring will stay with their mothers for up to 14 months, but males will hang around for more than two years! Outside of mother/offspring groups the Japanese Badgers are solitary, more so than other Badger species.

Though they are currently listed as being of Least Concern, the Japanese Badger population has been on the decline for the last 30 years or so. Habitat loss has been a big factor, as is the spread of invasive Raccoons who compete for food and breeding sites.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Japan
Size : Length up to 30in (75cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Mustelidae -- Genus : Meles -- Species : M. anakuma

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