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Temporal range: Miocene–recent
European pine marten (Martes martes)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Subfamily: Guloninae
Genus: Martes
Pinel, 1792
Type species
Martes domestica[1]
Pinel, 1792 (= Mustela foina Erxleben, 1777)

See text

Marten ranges:
  • M. americana + caurina = cyan & teal
  • M. flavigula = dark blue & sepia
  • M. foina = rust, brown & sepia
  • M. gwatkinsii
  • M. martes = orange, rust & grass-green
  • M. melampus = yellow
  • M. zibellina = green & grass-green

A marten is a weasel-like mammal in the genus Martes within the subfamily Guloninae, in the family Mustelidae. They have bushy tails and large paws with partially retractile claws. The fur varies from yellowish to dark brown, depending on the species; it is valued by animal trappers for the fur trade. Martens are slender, agile animals, adapted to living in the taiga, which inhabit coniferous and northern deciduous forests across the Northern Hemisphere.


Results of DNA research indicate that the genus Martes is paraphyletic, with some studies placing Martes americana outside the genus and allying it with Eira and Gulo, to form a new New World clade.[2][3] The genus first evolved up to seven million years ago during the Miocene epoch.

Genus MartesPinel, 1792 – eight species
Common name Scientific name and subspecies Range Size and ecology IUCN status and estimated population
American marten

Martes americana
(Turton, 1806)

Seven subspecies
  • M. a. americana
  • M. a. abieticola
  • M. a. abietinoides
  • M. a. actuosa
  • M. a. atrata
  • M. a. brumalis
  • M. a. kenaiensis
Arctic Alaska east to Newfoundland, south to New York
Map of range



Pacific marten

Martes caurina
(Merriam, 1890)

Six subspecies
Southeast Alaska to central California, east to northern New Mexico Size:



European pine marten

Martes martes
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Europe and SW Asia, from Ireland in the west, eastward to the Urals and into Anatolia, Transcaucasia, Mesopotamia and northern Iran
Map of range



Beech marten

Martes foina
(Erxleben, 1777)

Eleven subspecies
  • M. foina foina
  • M. foina bosniaca
  • M. foina bunites
  • M. foina kozlovi
  • M. foina intermedia
  • M. foina mediterranea
  • M. foina milleri
  • M. foina nehringi
  • M. foina rosanowi
  • M. foina syriaca
  • M. foina toufoeus
Spain and Portugal in the west, through Central and Southern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, extending as far east as the Altai and Tien Shan mountains and northwest China
Map of range



Yellow-throated marten

Martes flavigula
Boddaert, 1785

Three subspecies
  • M. f. flavigula (Boddaert, 1785)
  • M. f. chrysospila (Pocock, 1936)
  • M. f. robinsoni
Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the Himalayas of India, Nepal and Bhutan, the Korean Peninsula, southern China, Taiwan and eastern Russia
Map of range



Nilgiri marten

Martes gwatkinsii
(Horsfield, 1851)
Southern India
Map of range




Martes zibellina
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Russia, Eastern Kazakhstan, China, North Korea and Hokkaidō, Japan
Map of range



Japanese marten

Martes melampus
(Wagner, 1841)

Two subspecies
  • M. m. melampus
  • M. m. tsuensis
Map of range




Several fossil martens have been described, including:

  • Martes campestris (Pliocene)
  • Martes wenzensis (Pliocene)[4]
  • Martes vetus (Pleistocene)[5]

Another described fossil species, Martes nobilis from the Holocene, is now considered synonymous with the American marten.[6]


The Modern English "marten" comes from the Middle English martryn, in turn borrowed from the Anglo-French martrine and Old French martre, itself from a Germanic source; cf. Old English mearþ, Old Norse mörðr, and Old High German and Yiddish מאַרדאַר mardar.

marten (n.)

agile, short-legged, bushy-tailed, medium-sized carnivorous mammal in the weasel family, largely nocturnal and found in forests across the colder parts of the northern hemisphere, c. 1300, martrin, "skin or fur of the marten," from Old French martrine "marten fur," noun use of fem. adjective martrin "of or pertaining to the marten," from martre "marten," from Frankish *martar or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *marthuz (source also of Old Saxon marthrin "of or pertaining to the marten," Old Frisian merth, Middle Dutch maerter, Dutch marter, Old High German mardar, German Marder, Old English mearþ, Old Norse mörðr "marten").

The ultimate etymology is unknown. Some suggest it is from PIE *martu- "bride," on some fancied resemblance. Or it might be a substrate word or a Germanic euphemism for the real name of the animal, which might have been taboo. In Middle English the animal itself typically was called marter, directly from Old French martre, but martrin took over this sense in English after c. 1400. The form marten is from late 16c., perhaps due to association with the masc. proper name Martin.[7]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Martens are solitary animals, meeting only to breed in late spring or early summer. Litters of up to five blind and nearly hairless kits are born in early spring. They are weaned after around two months, and leave the mother to fend for themselves at about three to four months of age.[8] They are omnivorous.[9]

Spatial niche segregation[edit]

It can be seen that there is a spatial niche segregation between certain species of marten such as the stone marten and the pine marten, however, we cannot credit this segregation to competition between the two species. It is more so due to the disparities in the two species' food preferences, avoidance of heavy predator pressure, and adaptability to cold climates that the spatial niche segregation occurs.[10]

Cultural references[edit]


The marten is populous in the northern Ontario community of Big Trout Lake. During the fur trade, commissioned by the Hudson Bay Company in the 18th and 19th centuries, the marten pelt was typically fashioned into mittens. The marten is still traded locally. The locals place a high value on this pelt, typically trading it for consumable goods.[citation needed]


In the Middle Ages, marten pelts were highly valued goods used as a form of payment in Slavonia, the Croatian Littoral, and Dalmatia. The marturina was a form of tax named after this. The banovac, a coin struck and used between 1235 and 1384, included the image of a marten. This is one of the reasons why the Croatian word for marten, kuna, was the name of the former Croatian currency.[11] A marten is depicted on the obverse of the 1-, 2-, and 5-kuna coins, minted since 1993, and on the reverse of the 25-kuna commemorative coins.[12] With adoption of euro as the national currency in 2023, a marten continues to be depicted on the obverse of the Croatian 1 euro coin.[13]

A running marten is shown on the coat of arms of Slavonia and subsequently on the modern design of the coat of arms of Croatia. The official seal of the Croatian Parliament from 1497 until the late 18th century had a similar design.[14][15]


The Finnish communications company Nokia derives its name, via the river Nokianvirta, from a type of marten locally known as the nokia.[16]


In the Illiad, the fleet-footed spy Dolon wore a marten-pelt cap.


The Latin word for helmet, galea, originally meant "marten pelt", although it is unclear whether early Romans wore these helmets for symbolical reasons or for their fine fur.[17]


  1. ^ Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ Flynn JJ, Finarelli JA, Zehr S, Hsu J, Nedbal MA (2005). "Molecular phylogeny of the carnivora (mammalia): assessing the impact of increased sampling on resolving enigmatic relationships". Syst. Biol. 54 (2): 317–37. doi:10.1080/10635150590923326. JSTOR 20061233. PMID 16012099.
  3. ^ Koepfli KP; et al. (Feb 2008). "Multigene phylogeny of the Mustelidae: resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation". BMC Biology. 6 (10): 10. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-6-10. PMC 2276185. PMID 18275614.
  4. ^ Samuels, J.X.; Cavin, J. (May 2012). "The earliest known fisher (Mustelidae), a new species from the Rattlesnake Formation of Oregon". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 33 (2): 448–454. doi:10.1080/02724634.2013.722155. S2CID 42079934.
  5. ^ Marciszak, A.; Ambros, D.; Hilpert, B. (October 2021). "Mustelids from Sackdilling Cave (Bavaria, Germany) and their biostratigraphic significance". Geobios. 68: 83–107. Bibcode:2021Geobi..68...83M. doi:10.1016/j.geobios.2021.04.004. S2CID 236282824.
  6. ^ Youngman, Phillip M.; Schueler, Frederick W. (1991). "Martes nobilis Is a Synonym of Martes americana, Not an Extinct Pleistocene-Holocene Species". Journal of Mammalogy. 72 (3): 567–577. doi:10.2307/1382140. JSTOR 1382140.
  7. ^ "Marten | Search Online Etymology Dictionary".
  8. ^ "American Marten (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved 2024-01-21.
  9. ^ "marten | Size & Facts | Britannica". Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  10. ^ Wereszczuk, Anna; Zalewski, Andrzej (2015). "Spatial Niche Segregation of Sympatric Stone Marten and Pine Marten – Avoidance of Competition or Selection of Optimal Habitat?". PLOS ONE. 10 (10): e0139852. Bibcode:2015PLoSO..1039852W. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139852. PMC 4596623. PMID 26444280.
  11. ^ Croatian National Bank. First Money — History of the Croatian Currency Archived 2011-06-22 at the Wayback Machine: Kuna and lipa — the Croatian Currency. – Retrieved on 31 March 2009.
  12. ^ Croatian National Bank. Kuna and Lipa, Coins of Croatia Archived 2009-06-22 at the Wayback Machine: 1 Kuna Coin Archived 2009-06-22 at the Wayback Machine, 2 Kuna Coin Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine, 5 Kuna Coin Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine, & Commemorative 25 Kuna Coins in Circulation Archived 2018-02-01 at the Wayback Machine. – Retrieved on 31 March 2009.
  13. ^ "Euro coins with the national side of the Republic of Croatia". Croatian National Bank. 1 January 2023. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  14. ^ Mario Jareb (2010). Hrvatski nacionalni simboli (Eng.: Croatian National Symbols). ISBN 9789532972306.
  15. ^ Ivan Bojničić-Kninski – Grbovnica kraljevine "Slavonije", (1895) – PDF (in Croatian).
  16. ^ Story of Nokia, retrieved on the 17 July 2013
  17. ^ Speidel, Michael P. (2008). Ancient Germanic warriors : warrior styles from Trajan's Column to Icelandic sagas. Routledge. ISBN 9780415486828. OCLC 632066572.

External links[edit]

  • Data related to Martes at Wikispecies
  • Media related to Martes at Wikimedia Commons