Erinaceus europaeus and Erinaceus roumanicus

Two similar species, previously classified as one. Supposedly, they can be distinguished by the color of their fur, but I also read that DNA testing ONLY gives you certainty. Some identify both hedgehogs by their range of occurrence, but at the edge of their range it seems risky. What do you know / think about it? Do you know if both species can interbreed?

Sure they interbreed, there’re hybrids on iNat (proved by DNA), yes it’s risky to separate them from photos, but pure europaeus looks nothing like roumanicus, but it seems with modern situation where roumanicus is getting in new regions each year, there’re more of genetically mixed populations. There’re regions where europaeus wasn’t recorded at all, so it’s easier there. Biggest challenge is of course quality of pictures.

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Both species show changes in their distribution, but where they meet at their ‘classical’ borders, there is hardly any hybridization. In Russia (Moscow area in particular) the situation is different, the rate of hybrids is much higher, and I would suggest that all observations there should not have RG for either of the species - because even when they look more like being this or that species, there is a considerable chance of being a hybrid. There are many observations and I tried to clean up at least parts of Europe, but it is one of those never-ending tasks…

I wrote a journal about this: https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/44841-identifications-of-hedgehogs-erinaceus-in-europe

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Adding hybrid to iNat taxonomy would help with that.

How would that help with the (overconfident) IDs? I think it will be very difficult to show robust evidence a specimen is a hybrid

It’s definitely better than having all those observations at genus level?
I don’t talk about how people id them, though imo with populations where europaeus isn’t really found anymore and genetically they’re closer to other species, it isn’t a great deal to id them as this species.

Moscow is also a hotspot of hybrid for Herring and Caspian gulls, but we still id them mostly as one or another, often there’re no morphological evidence of hybridization visible from pics, sometimes there is, but anyway those Herrings look more or less like normal Herrings, an Caspians look like Caspians, and nobody will confirm hybrid id in their case, so data becomes useless, with hedgehogs there should be some people who could agree with hybrid id or species id based on their knowledge as there’re more people in mammals than in Larus.

They can be IDed to species RG separately, except in their overlap zones (p. 3, table 1 here). There is only one known hybridization zone, among additional areas their ranges may meet. Genus IDs should be best for photos in any of the overlap/near overlap zones since morphological variation makes distinguishing them difficult. The hybrid zone itself has a mixed morphology. Hybrids could be added as a taxon, but best to only use for IDs if using gene barcoding to ID.