State Museum of Natural History
Biodiversity Data Centre

Arvicola amphibius (Linnaeus, 1758)

  • Arvicola terrestris (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Mus amphibius Linnaeus, 1758
  • Arvicola terrestris amphibius (Linnaeus, 1758)
Vernacular Name
European Water Vole, Eurasian Water Vole, Water Vole
Conservation status
Value of species
Linnaeus' amphibius and terrestris, both proposed in 1758 on the same page, are now considered conspecific by most researchers. As shown by Corbet (1978), amphibius has a priority over terrestris, based on Blasius (1857) as the first reviser. Recently, this species was split into A. amphibius and A. scherman (Panteleyev 2001, Wilson and Reeder 2005). Arvicola amphibius is larger, with shaggy pelage and ortodont incisors, and is associated with aquatic environment; A. scherman is smaller, with softer pelage, more reduced plantar and palmar tubercles, and the upper incisors strongly projecting forwards and has fossorial habits (Panteleyev 2001). Mitochondrial phylogeny based on sequences of 800 to 1,200 BP of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene suggests taxonomy of A. amphibius group to be more complex: three main groups were distinguished within A. amphibius: (1) strictly fossorial water voles from the mountain regions of Europe, (2) aquatic and transitional populations living south of the Alps, and (3) a heterogeneous group of the remaining aquatic populations (Wust Saucy 1998). There is much confusion between Arvicola amphibius and A. scherman and the distribution of both taxa should be considered tentative. Arvicola amphibius, as understood here, has a large range extending from France and the United Kingdom in the west, through much of continental Europe and Russia, as far as the Lena Basin and Lake Baikal in Siberia (Russia). Its range extends north of the Arctic circle and south into Iran and the Near East (Shenbrot and Krasnov 2005). Population declines are evident in some European countries (e.g., United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy) (Saucy 1999, Battersby 2005). However, in many areas it is common and stable (in northern continental Europe it is considered a pest species). Even in optimal habitat, aquatic forms seldom occur at densities greater than 100 individuals per hectare (roughly equivalent to 15 individuals per 100 m of river bank)(Saucy 1999). In Fennoscandia and the Baltic area the aquatic form also shows population cycles in synchrony with other vole species. At high population densities, large scale damages on rice fields have been reported in Macedonia (B. Kryštufek pers. comm. 2007). The water vole is thought to have been a common species in the Hula swamps of Israel until the area was drained in 1957 (Qumsiyeh 1996). In Azerbaijan, considered to be common in semi deserts, lowland and riparian forests, mountain forests and mountain grasslands and numerous in foothill and mountain steppes. The species is locally abundant in lush banks. This large vole is adaptable and survives in a range of habitats around rivers, streams and marshes in the lowlands and the mountains (Harrison and Bates 1991). It is a strong swimmer and climber (Harrison and Bates 1991). It occurs around streams and irrigation ditches. In Fennoscandia and locally in the Balkans, they live fossorial life during winter months. Steep riverbanks with lush grass and vegetation are preferred. May be active at any time, but are most active at dawn and dusk. Mainly vegetarian, feeding primarily on succulent vegetation, but also consumes some insects, mollusks, and small fish; roots, bulbs and tubers in the winter (Reichstein 1982, Harrison and Bates 1991). Reproduction occurs during the warmer months of the year and may begin as early as February in mild years. Gestation period is 21 days. Females produce 2-4 litters per year. Average litter size between 4-6 young.
Book reference
  • Татаринов К. А. Звірі західних областей України (матеріали до вивчення фауни Української РСР). - Київ: Вид-во АН УРСР, 1956. - 188 с.

Taxonomic branch