Gruppo Piccoli Mammiferi (Small Mammal Research Group)
The Small Mammal Research Group is affiliated to the Italian Mammal Society ATIt since 2012 with the aim of bringing together all those involved in Italy in the study, management and conservation of insectivores and rodents, in a spirit of dialogue and collaboration.
The Small Mammal Research Group brings together scholars, experts and simple enthusiasts interested in issues related to Rodents, Soricomorphs and Erinaceomorphs, often defined as “small mammals”. The Group, founded in 2012, promotes research about small mammals in Italy, in order to increase the basic knowledge on the biology and ecology of small mammals, to verify the status and conservation issues of small mammal species, to determine the impact of problematic species on human activities and on ecosystems, identifying the best practices to mitigate this impact, as well as to increase knowledge of taxonomy, palaeontology and evolution of the species.
The foundations for the establishment of the Small Mammal Group were laid in the First Conference on Small Mammals, held in the Nazzano Tevere Farfa Reserve in 2010. On this occasion, attendees brought out the need of a meeting point to discuss and share opinions about research, conservation and management of mammal species belonging to the orders of Rodents, Soricomorphs and Erinaceomorphs. A long process of organisation and endorsement of the status and aims of the group finally led to its foundation on January 26th 2012, at the Department of Biology and Biotechnology “Charles Darwin” in Rome.
To date, the Small Mammal Research Group has organised three national conferences.
National Coordinator: Stefania Gasperini
Counselors: Dario Capizzi, Leonardo Ancillotto, Paola Bartolommei, Chiara Paniccia
Mailing list: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rodents and Insectivores, often referred to by the short definition of “small mammals”, include more than half of mammal species known to this day. Thanks to an impressive adaptive radiation they have colonised the most diverse niches, from forest ecosystems to open areas, from aquatic environments to deserts, from the subsoil to the tree crowns. Within ecosystems, small mammals often play important ecological functions, for example as habitual prey for almost all vertebrate predators.
In turn, they are often also important predators, as frequently occurs in Insectivores or in omnivorous Rodents. The excavation activity of many fossorial species is able to stir up the surface layers of the soil, while their action as primary consumers of seeds and fungal spores is crucial for the maintenance of forest ecosystems and the dispersion of plants and fungi.
On the other hand, some rodents can cause economical losses to human activities or present potential health risks for human beings and domestic animals. The fight against crop damages is as long as the history of agriculture, but nowadays, at least in industrialised countries, the particularly relevant problem is the presence of synanthropic species in urban centres and food industries. In other cases, species introduced outside their original range have a negative impact on the ecosystems. These risks are often tackled with the help of toxic products, whose consequences on the ecosystem and in particular on predator populations are still little known. Even if those species are a small minority, it is a matter of fact that small mammals are mostly known for bad consequences due to their presence.
Even though Rodents and Insectivores constitute an hight percentage of the planet’s Vertebrate richness and represent the groups with the highest number of endemic species in Europe, they are at the same time considered among the least threatened taxa. While for some species this may reflect their wide distribution and adaptability, in other cases it is likely that actual vulnerability is underestimated due to inadequate information.
In fact the basic biology, distribution and population trends are often only partially known. The main consequence of the alleged lower vulnerability of small mammals is a general deficit of protection laws observed at both European and Italian level, and their non-inclusion, with few exceptions, in national and international lists of species worthy of conservation.