the aggregate of species of animals living in the taiga. The taiga, which is richer in fauna than the tundra but poorer than the broad-leaved forests, is characterized by certain natural conditions, to which taiga fauna has become adapted. Among the most significant are the predominance of one or only a few tree species, the varying amounts of seeds produced each year, and the lack of variety in vegetation at and near the ground. Mosses and lichens predominate, and a continuous cover of shrubs is usually lacking; however, several berry subshrubs are encountered, including whortleberry and mountain cranberry.
Taiga fauna includes members of several groups.
(1) Species widely distributed in the taiga as well as other geographic zones include the wolf, fox, otter, weasel, ermine, water vole, and lump-nosed bat.
(2) Forest and forest-meadow species, which usually predominate in the broad-leaved forests, also penetrate extensive areas of the taiga; these include the pygmy shrew, common shrew, European water shrew, European hedgehog, European hare, yellow-necked mouse, wood mouse, field mouse, harvest mouse, common meadow vole, marten, the weasel Putorius putorius, mink, red deer, and roe deer.
(3) Species characteristic of the tundra and taiga include the reindeer.
(4) Forest species that also inhabit the taiga, include the beaver, squirrel, and Eurasian brown bear.
Several animal species are endemic to the taiga and are not encountered elsewhere. In Eurasia, these include the sable, wood lemming, Altai mole, flat-skulled shrew, dark-toothed shrew, and the shrew Sorex tsherskii. Species that flourish best in the taiga but are encountered elsewhere include the arctic shrew, alpine pika, blue hare, flying squirrel, Siberian chipmunk, birch mouse, root vole, red-backed vole, red vole, red-gray vole, field vole, wolverine, lynx, musk deer, and elk.
The plains taiga of North America is inhabited by American species of the same genera as those found in Eurasia, for example, the white-tailed jackrabbit, common meadow vole, fisher, American marten, and Canada lynx. Other species inhabit both America and Eurasia, for example, the elk and arctic red-toothed shrew; some species belong to genera found only in America.
The following groups of taiga fauna are distinguished according to area of distribution: Asiatic, Eurasiatic, Eurasiatic-American, and American. Rodents account for the highest number of mammal species, constituting 42 percent of the total. Insectivores are also numerous, representing 25 percent. Predators, ungulates, and Lagomorpha are scarcer, although they are more common in the taiga than in the steppe. There are a few Chiroptera.
Typical taiga birds include the Siberian capercaillie, hazel hen, nutcracker, Siberian jay, crossbills, and several species of woodpeckers and owls. Species found in the taiga of North America are the three-toed woodpecker, crossbills, boreal owl, and Bohemian waxwing. The taiga has few reptiles; in Eurasia, two species from broad-leaved forests have penetrated the taiga—the common viper and common lizard. Endemic taiga insects include the silkworm moth Dendrolimus sibiricus, a dangerous pest of coniferous trees. Taiga species of ants, long-horned beetles, and bark beetles are typical, and bloodsucking flies are abundant. Environmental changes caused by man, such as those resulting from fires and the felling of trees, lead to substantial changes in the fauna—population growth for some species, decrease for others, and the appearance of new species, for example, the grouse and black-bellied hamster.
Taiga fauna includes commercial birds and mammals that are useful to man. Several species of taiga fauna carry causative agents of diseases, including tick-borne encephalitis.
REFERENCESBobrinskii. N. A. Geografiia zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1951.
Kulik, I. L. “Taezhnyi faunisticheskii kompleks mlekopitaiushchik Evrazii.” Biul. Moskovskogo ob-va ispytalelei prirody: Biologii, 1972, vol. 77, fasc. 4.
Kulik, I. L. “Taezhnyi faunisticheskii kompleks mlekopitaiushchikh Severnoi Ameriki v sravnenii s evraziatskim taezhnym kompleksom.” Vestnik zoologii, 1975, fasc. 2.