I do not know of any recent notices of its capture, and Mr. Crouch, writing in 1854, believed it to be no longer an inhabitant of the county. He did accept, however, that some authorities had allowed a greater degree of survival in some English counties than had others.In the light of Alston’s decision to combine the two species within the British Isles, we should examine the basic anatomy and physiology of the Beech Marten. It is tempting to suggest that the main reason that the two species do not appear to have hybridised in the wild is that, although they occupy the same geographical area, they live in a completely different ecological niche. Buy a copy of the Smaller Mystery Carnivores: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Smaller-Mystery-Carnivores-Westcountry/dp/1905723059/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235480804&sr=1-1. The soles of the feet of M.foina are not as hairy either, although, unless examining a dead, very tame or anaesthetised specimen, this might be hard to ascertain.The head and body length is 42 – 48 cm (M.martes 38 – 48 cm), the tail 23 – 26 cm (M.martes 25 – 28 cm), the height at the shoulder 12 cm (M.martes 15cm), and the weight between 1.3 and 2.3 kg (M.martes 0.5 – 1.5 kg).It ranges across most of Europe except for the Mediterranean islands (they are found on Crete), and supposedly the British Isles. Morphologically, the Beech or Stone Marten is very similar to the Pine Marten, but it is slightly heavier in build. In 1836 one was caught alive near Stock House by the Rev. The name was established for the large arboreal weasel as "the fisher. I make no apologies for quoting this entry for Martes foina in full.“This species is now, I believe, nearly extinct as a systematic war is waged against it by preserves of game. Invertebrates carrying disease or causing annoyance, Prevention of damage by pests in kitchens and food factories, Controlling pests in kitchens and food factories, Precautions against infestations by pests of textiles. It prefers more open country and is sometimes seen sitting up on its hind legs.Here, one should note that the 1992 report of Martens from Exmoor specifically noted that they were seen in open country and mentioned an animal which ‘sat up’ like a Polecat or Ferret.Unlike any other species of mustelid found in Britain, (with the possible exception of some populations of Badgers), M.foina often lives in surprisingly urban environments and has even been known to live in lofts, garages and warehouses. However, taxonomists have yet to come up with a genus or other subgroup for these "pseudo-martens." Interestingly, however, Alston was prepared to include some records which, in the light of the main argument of his paper, might have seemed somewhat anomalous. Mr. P.F. Their route can sometimes be traced by the tracks or footprints they leave (p. 210). Where do the biting and irritating organisms come from? This was only one of several similar occasions in Victorian zoology.Taxonomists were, and in some ways still are, either ‘lumpers’ or ‘splitters’ and in the days before mitochondrial DNA analysis made the whole process of species definition a less arbitrary matter, were prone to ‘lumping’ together animals previously considered to belong to several different, though closely related, species into one larger species. When such fuel became of less importance these hollow trees were gradually cut down, or suffered to fall, to the great diminution of the numbers of the weasel tribe”. It is interesting to compare Alston’s attitudes towards the British distribution of Martens with those equally fallacious figures presented by Langley and Yalden ninety years later. Unsurprisingly, when I contacted the mammal department at the British Museum (Natural History), they were adamant that they had no knowledge of any specimens of M.foina from the U.K.Alston also noted that even in 1879, Martens (of whatever species) had an uncanny habit of turning up in areas where they had previously been considered extinct.“In the north of England, Mr. W.A. A 1916 record of a Dorset Pine Marten is even more sceptical:“Mustela martes. There is a little known report from the 1979 volume of the Transactions of the Devonshire Association. In each instance one shilling was paid. The colouration is not necessarily a definite sign either as, although the ‘bib’ of M.foina is always white, the ‘bib’ of M.martes can be such a pale fawn as to be indistinguishable from white, especially at any distance.There are also minor osteological and dentition differences as well as genetic differences, and it is interesting to note that, although the two species co-exist over much of their range, they do not seem to interbreed. As the animal has been recorded from Hampshire fairly recently the record is possibly correct but as the animal was only seen for a fairly short time and is unfamiliar I should prefer before admitting a record to see a skin of a Dorset specimen”.It was not until 1879, when Edward Alston published an article entitled “On the Specific Identity of the British Marten” for the Royal Zoological Society, that what had hitherto been described as two separate species, became lumped together as one.Within only a few years, the mammal reports of each of the regional societies that we have examined contained a sentence reading:“Animals formerly supposed to belong to the species M.foina or Marten Cat are now considered to be Pine Martens”.Alston gave few reasons behind his decision to ‘lump’ the two species together as far as Great Britain was concerned. Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals. It is found as far north as the southern shores of the Baltic and ranges across Asia to the Himalayas and Mongolia.The habitats and behaviour of M.foina are where it differs most from M.martes. Even Alston did not contest this, which makes his findings in this little known paper, which has, after all, shaped the face of British mustelid taxonomy for well over a century, all the more puzzling.Even Alston’s conclusions were not definitive, as he contradicted his own findings by noting one definite 19th Century record of M.foina from Northern Ireland. As we have seen, the naturalists of the late Victorian and early 20th Century eras were renowned for both their arbitrary ‘lumping together’ of disparate species and their equally arbitrary creation of new ones, simply in order to make life easier for the taxonomist.It is an indisputable fact that, whereas a hundred and fifty years ago there were two species of Marten recognised in Britain, only one has ever made it into the history books, and it also seems reasonable that utilising cryptozoological methodology, giving credence to eyewitness reports, and to the etymological evidence, the people who were actually familiar with the creatures considered them to belong to two separate species, which seems to be valuable circumstantial evidence pointing towards them being two separate species. (14)This places both species firmly within the Dorset fauna, and interestingly implies that M.foina was, at the time, the better known animal. Two were paid for at Wellington in 1609 and one (a ‘Marting’) in 1700.
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