Facts about the animal kingdom

Types of Martens - All Marten Species

Nick A. Romero
By Nick A. Romero, Biologist and environmental educator. April 9, 2024
Types of Martens - All Marten Species

The marten is a type of mustelid within the family Mustelidae, a classification which also includes weasels, minks, ferrets, badgers and otters, among other animals. Mustelids have a very wide distribution, with populations on almost every continent, with Antarctica being the most notable exception. Different species live in different habitats, with some having more aquatic behaviors than others. Martens are mustelids which compromise the genus Martes. They are terrestrial animals with elongated bodies, soft fur, scent glands and carnivorous habits, Mustelids are one of the most diverse animal types within their order.

At AnimalWised, we present the different types of martens. We provide all marten species with photos, information about their behaviors and fun facts.

  1. How is the marten classified?
  2. Characteristics of martens
  3. Types of martens

How is the marten classified?

As we have stated in the introduction, we know that the marten is a type of mustelid animal. This is a taxonomic classification which helps us to know how they are related to other living beings. We provide the full taxonomic classification of martens below:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Mustelidae
  • Subfamily: Guloninae
  • Genus: Martes

Within the genus Martes we can find 8 species of marten. However, there are many subspecies within this genus, with around 61 currently reported. However, this is subject to change and more may be discovered in the future.

Characteristics of martens

Despite their diversity, all mustelids have certain characteristics which set them apart from other types of mammal. These include having fur and scent glands on their body, as well as a mainly carnivorous diet. Each type of mustelid has their own specific characteristics, which include the following:

  • They have thin and elongated bodies which make them look similar to weasels and ferrets.
  • Males usually measure between 18 to 24" (45 to 60 cm), while females measure 12 to 16" (30 to 40 cm), although there may be exceptions.
  • The weight of males ranges between 1.1-14 lb (0.5-6 kg) and that of females between 0.4-11 lb (0.2-5 kg).
  • The colorations and combinations of the fur vary depending on the species. They may be yellowish, brown, black, gray or whitish, with various combinations thereof.
  • In summer, the coat is shorter and less dense than in winter.
  • Commonly, martens are solitary animals and only form pairs during the reproductive season.
  • Males usually have quite violent confrontations to mate with females.
  • There is a courtship that includes moments of play between the mating couples.
  • Most species reproduce between June and August.
  • The gestation time is highly variable depending on the species, since some have a delay in embryo implantation. This can prolong the process for more than 200 days in some, while in others it only lasts a month.
  • Although males and females live in separate territories, these may overlap.
  • Some species have arboreal habits, while others are exclusively terrestrial.
  • Martens have well-developed senses that allow them to be effective hunters.
  • All species are omnivorous with food sources including hares, birds, reptiles, mice, fish, frogs, eggs, fruits and berries.
  • With the exception of the Nilgiri marten (M. gwatkinsii), classified as ‘vulnerable’, all other types of martens are considered in the ‘least concern’ category in terms of conservation status.

The photo below depicts a European pine marten with its distinctive yellow chest markings. Discover more facts about mustelids with out article explaining the different types of otter species.

Types of Martens - All Marten Species - Characteristics of martens

Types of martens

In total, there are eight well-differentiated species of martens. They have the shared characteristics as explained above, but they also have certain traits unique to their own species. We present the different types of martens that can be found in the wild and share certain individual characteristics in terms of behaviors, habitat and others:

  • European pine marten (Martes martes): native to much of Europe, Asia Minor and Asian Russia, among other surrounding areas. It lives in different types of forests and . It is an excellent climber that measures between 24-32" (60-80 cm) and weighs 1.1-4 lb (0.5-1.8 kg). It has an intense brown color with a whitish orange spot on the throat.
  • Beech marten (Martes foina): distributed throughout much of Europe and Central Asia. It is the species of marten that lives in more open spaces, preferring deciduous forests, forest edges, rocky slopes and urban areas. It is dark brown or grayish brown in color, with a light stripe under the chin. Its weight ranges between 2.2-5 lb (1-2.3 kg) and its size ranges from 16-21" (40-54 cm).
  • American marten (Martes americana): native to Canada and the United States, it is also known as the American pine marten and lives in coniferous forests. It has a weight ranging from 0.55-3 lb (0.25-1.3 kg) and a size from 12.6-18" (32-45 cm). It has a grayish head, dark brown legs and tail, cream chest and brown back. They are sensitive to their environment, especially weather and light, changing behaviors accordingly.
  • Japanese marten (Martes melampus): endemic to Japan, with two subspecies identified, it develops in forests and suburban areas. Its weight ranges between 1.1-3.8 lb (0.5-1.7 kg) and its length ranges from 18.5-21" (47-54 cm). It has a color that varies from yellowish brown to dark, with a light spot on the neck.
  • Sable (Martes zibellina ): native to China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mongolia and Russia, inhabiting various habitats such as boreal or coniferous forests, deciduous forests and plains or mountains. It measures 13.8-22" (35-56 cm) and weighs 1.5-4 lb (0.7-1.8 kg). Their fur varies depending on the subspecies, from light to dark brown, being lighter on the ventral area than on the back and legs. It has been historically been used in the fur trade, although less so than it once was.
  • Yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula): widely distributed throughout Asia, it lives in boreal, equatorial and many other forest types, from sea level to about 4,000 meters above sea level. Its size ranges from 19.7-28" (50-72 cm) and its weight from 2.7-12.6 lb (1.2-5.7 kg). It has a dark head, bright yellow chest and throat, and dark tail. The coloration pattern varies depending on the subspecies.
  • Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsii): native to India, it lives in various types of forests such as evergreen, mosaic forests, grasslands and humid forests. It has an average weight of 4.6 lb (2.1 kg) and a length that ranges between 21.7-25.6" (55-65 cm). It is dark brown in color, with a yellow or orange throat that can extend towards the forelimbs.
  • Pacific marten (Martes caurina): native to Canada and the United States, it inhabits coniferous, mixed, and deciduous forests in both highlands and lowlands. It can weigh from 4.4-11 lb (2-5 kg) and its size is between 29.5-47" (75-120 cm). It presents shades of brown with silver or grayish areas on the body, and in some individuals there may be a cream patch on the chest.

You can see the different marten species photos below. If you would like to learn more about a certain type of marten, take a look at our related article on what do pine martens eat?

Types of Martens - All Marten Species - Types of martens

If you want to read similar articles to Types of Martens - All Marten Species, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  • Dubberley, L. (2022). Tuesday (Online), Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved from: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Martes/
  • Myers, P., Espinosa, R., Parr, C. S., Jones, T., Hammond, G. S., & Dewey, T. A. (2024). Taxon Information. The Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved from: https://animaldiversity.org/search/?q=martes&feature=INFORMATION
  • IUCN (2024). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2023-1. Retrieved from: https://www.iucnredlist.org/search?query=Martes&searchType=species
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Types of Martens - All Marten Species